Football programs in town had to scramble in the spring, when an 11th-hour mandate came down from the powers that were, ordering each of the four schools into spring football. Thing is, a couple of teams had previously opted out of spring, and had been preparing their upcoming agenda for months accordingly, only to have to downshift and adjust, on the fly.

But count Gabe Pena as the eternal optimist, because he says that the unusual implementation has worked in his team’s favor.

“Well, I think it boils down to the sports-specific period which the UIL brought in,” said the Econ mentor before a practice got cranking Wednesday out east. “Having that time in the summer, with the kids, coaches being able to coach them, really made a difference for us.”

The new rule gives varsity coaches two hours per week during the summer to teach their athletes, while in the past a coach was absolutely verboten on the summer scene.

“I think the UIL had a good idea, partly to keep up some continuity from spring to summer and on into fall,” said Pena, the dean of city bosses who is hot on the trail of a playoff spot as 2019 commences. “Also, it helps supplement the influence of other areas the kids are involved in.”

Like the burgeoning club/travel outfits which have proliferated like wildflowers the past decade or so. Having one’s athletes in house and not seeing them gone, riding the rails to hither, thither and yon means more time to inculcate school values and skills, and several non-football coaches in particular have indicated their happiness at the sports-specific period.

Anyway, here are Pena and the Jags, and the coach says that the two hours per week may not be a big deal to some, but at Econ, it’s mint.

“Our boys really don’t do that outside training, whether it be because of time or means,” he explained. “So any amount of time we can get with them, that’s about the only practice or skill work they will do from the end of spring to August.”

Pena admitted that it took some quick thinking to make the sudden spring work, but that his coaches were amazing in the task.

“We had everything ready, planning way in advance, but a lot of coaches had to coordinate different plans, for vacations, etc.,” he said. “But they did a tremendous job of accommodating what we had to do. To get to work with your kids is very important. We had some seven-on-seven type things during the summer, Jag on Jag, we copied that from Longview, the state champs, they are big on Lobo on Lobo, so we said, let’s do some of that, too.”

Having spring ball means, of course, teams come into fall workouts a week later than those programs who did not, and get but one scrimmage before the opener hits, versus two for those who had no organized spring session.

“You have had that argument for years, benefits of spring or no spring,” said Pena, whose team was 4-6 last year, suffered some significant graduation losses, and therefore enjoyed the opportunity to see some new faces in pads back in May. “So really, it all worked out, even though it was a bit of a surprise at first. We always tell the boys, ‘Everyone has a boss and you just have to get down to business and do what has to be done.’ That is a good lesson for us all, making things work. And so that’s another way in which the sports-specific rule has come in very handy.”