EDCOUCH — Monday marked the first day high school football teams officially returned to the field, and while Edcouch-Elsa managed to beat the brutal South Texas heat with an early morning practice, there was a fire burning inside of this year’s Yellow Jackets.

It started with last year’s 2-8 overall record, Edcouch-Elsa’s worst season since 1983 — an anomaly for a program with a rich, winning tradition dating back to the mid-1980s.

“Last year added fuel to the fire,” senior linebacker Jack Perez said. “We just want to make a statement and let everyone know that what ‘La Maquina’ was — it still is. We’re going to prove to people what Yellow Jacket football is all about.”

After a 1-5 start, first-year head coach Bradly Chavez was relieved of his duties and athletic director Christian Navarro was named interim head coach. E-E went on to shut out Laredo Cigarroa 40-0 under Navarro before losing its final two games to Roma and Sharyland Pioneer by a combined six points.

Navarro, who no longer has the interim tag, has been working with this group since last season. He feels last year’s finish has given “La Maquina Amarilla” a foundation to build on in 2019.

“There’s a lot of tradition here in this school. These kids’ parents, their uncles, somebody in their family has been a Yellow Jacket, so the tradition of football is rich,” Navarro said. “They’re always harping on them that nothing else matters except winning the district championship and going four rounds deep into the playoffs. It’s something that’s expected year in, year out. Last year, if you want to call it an anomaly, yeah, let’s call it that. But this year, these kids have a chip on their shoulder. This group feels they’re just as great as the rest of them.”

Senior quarterback Michael Rodriguez has two older brothers and five cousins who donned the black and gold before him. Now, Rodriguez is part of the group trying to bring that winning tradition back.

“Last year motivated us to push harder because Edcouch-Elsa is not known for that. Growing up, there was always a tradition, and we got to bring it back,” he said.

On the field, the Yellow Jackets return five starters on offense and six on defense this season. Two key pieces on the defensive side are senior ends Ross Uresti and Matt Segura. Uresti said the Edcouch-Elsa defense is trying to bring the mystique back to the Black Hole.

“Ever since my sophomore year, we fell to 5-5 and then 2-8. We’ve been losing that tradition. We’re trying to bring back that Black Hole, that intimidation, that fear,” he said. “We’re feeling strong, fierce and fast. We’ve improved over the summer and put everything into this.”

The Yellow Jackets begin the 2019 campaign at home against Corpus Christi Veterans and Weslaco High in Weeks 1 and 2 — teams that reached the third round during last year’s playoffs. With two tough tests on the schedule early on, Edcouch-Elsa feels it will pay off once District 16-5A-DII play rolls around.

And while there will be plenty of outside pressure, the Yellow Jackets aren’t just out to prove it to their family, friends and community. Senior running back Jay Cardenas, who will be counted on to carry the load offensively, said the Yellow Jackets are out to prove it to themselves.

“This isn’t just to prove it to other people, it’s to prove it to ourselves. We have our own goals we want to accomplish,” Cardenas said.