ELSA — The long awaited return of fall sports for UIL Class 5A teams in the Rio Grande Valley is finally here as football programs hit the field Monday for the first time this school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Edcouch-Elsa Yellow Jackets officially kicked off their season with an organized team practice. Head football coach and athletic director Christian Navarro said players and coaching staff were equally excited to be back on the field and preparing to play ball in three weeks.

“It was a lot of fun, to be quite honest with you. The kids know and the coaches and staff know we’re going to do everything as right as possible and follow all guidelines, because nothing is promised to anybody, especially tomorrow,” Navarro said. “We want to protect our kids, protect our coaches and protect the program to make sure everything’s done within our capabilities to keep the program going.”

While South Texas high school football teams have grown accustomed to the first day of practice being a scorcher in the RGV’s August heat, the Yellow Jackets enjoyed the cooler fall weather with their first early morning practice happening in late September due to a local county health order which delayed the start of school sports.

“We had a lot of fun today, especially taking a break from the heat. The weather was great, the kids were crisp, so even though we started later, I feel like we haven’t lost a step,” Navarro said.

The Yellow Jackets will be looking to pick up right where last year’s squad left off — on an upswing.

Edcouch-Elsa’s 2019-20 team snapped a skid for “La Maquina Amarilla” and fought its way into the playoffs. Now, with a new look District 16-5A DII, the Yellow Jackets hope to build on that solid foundation.

“We’re going to start with the basics and go from there. That’s what we did last year: turned around a 2-8 program into a playoff program and we’re going to build on that,” Navarro said. “The kids are excited and enjoying themselves. They’re very motivated and they want to go compete for a district title this year.”

The Yellow Jackets are slated to open their season with a scrimmage Oct. 16 and non-district games against Rio Grande City and Donna High on Oct. 23 and Oct. 30. Then, it’ll be right into District 16-5A DII East Zone play as Edcouch-Elsa will face Valley View and Mercedes at home and PSJA Memorial and PSJA Southwest on the road.

bramos@themonitor.com