This could be the year that Edinburg North dethrones the Edinburg Bobcats at the top of the city heap, as Coach Nick Cantu returns eight starters and a bunch of good kids from the successful junior varsity.

The Coogs have made the playoffs four of the past five years, but have never won a district title. But with veteran stars abounding, Cantu thinks that 2009 might be a record-setter.

“We’ll see what happens,” he said. “But I know these guys are experienced and they have taken it upon themselves to be leaders already this year. We have a lot of talent and the team knows they have a chance to be very good.”

North (19-12), which lost to Brownsville Porter in bi-district last season, has a super starting pitcher in senior righty J.D. Escobar, who threw seven complete games and compiled a gaudy 1.52 ERA in 2008, with 69 strikeouts against just 13 walks. He’s a battler with confidence, and often helps himself at the plate (three homers last year with a .358 average and 22 RBI).

“I would pitch every game if I had to, I keep myself in shape and take care of my arm,” said Escobar, who added that while the team would love to knock off EHS twice this season, they’re really keeping an eye on P-SJ-A as a clear challenger standing in the way.

At the corners, North has hitting to burn with first baseman Josh Carranza (.333 with 18 RBI) and junior third sacker Noel Cruz (.391). Carranza is a lefty who will see time on the mound, and he was the district’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year.

Speaking of D, the double-play combination of shortstop Chris DeLuna and second baseman Chris Cavazos has been around forever, and the former is impressive at the plate, having hit .373 with 23 runs scored last year.

Raymond Corkill (.310) and Josh Silva return in the outfield, and Silva, an early signee to UTPA who will get some starts on the hill, says that the Coogs are ready to roll.

“If you had been here the first day, you would have seen us come together and run things smoothly,” said Silva, who has struggled with injuries for two seasons but reports a clean bill of health heading into the campaign. “I think we have a great chance to be good, to win it all, and we have a lot of seniors who are ready to show what they can do.”

Running the show behind the plate is strapping junior catcher Erick Casillas, who hit .306 last year and proved to be a fine handler of pitchers. He’ll work with Escobar and also Rick Fuerte, a deceptive righty who won twice and saved two games last season with a 3.11 ERA in 45 innings. North has a good pitching depth.

In all, the Coogs are flat stacked, and appear to be the odds-on favorites to take the league this time around. They installed a new scoreboard in their park, and are looking to place a torrent of runs on the home side, keeping the visitors to consistent zeroes.