Hopefully, the start of the 2009-10 preseason isn't a sign of what lies ahead for the Northern Lehigh boys' basketball team.

Since the first day of practice, the Bulldogs have dealt with a significant amount of challenges.

Even before the season started, Rich Oertner, who enters his 10th year as head coach, knew that he had a limited number of players to work with.

During the first two weeks of practice, six players were missing because of illness and the football postseason.

"It's been tough practicing," Oertner said. "We had a couple of practices where we only had nine guys. You're playing your first team against what you want to call your second team, but you don't have all of your second team. It's against whatever's left."

When the team got everyone back last Tuesday, Oertner faced yet another challenge re-teaching what he taught the first two weeks.

"As soon as we got the football guys back, we had to take a few steps back," he said. "The kids that have been there know what's going on, but then we had to take a couple steps backward and start all over with the four new guys."

On top of it, the Bulldogs enter this season without last year's two leading scorers, Hadyn Charles and Mitch Demko. Charles, who averaged 13.4 ppg and Demko, who averaged 11.2 ppg., were the only players to average double figures on last year's district qualifying squad.

With all the challenges that the team has to overcome, Oertner still remains optimistic with the talent he has returning.

"We look okay," said Oertner. "At this point, we're well organized with the kids because a lot of them are here all year round."

Once it comes to this Friday night's tip-off in Southern Lehigh, the Bulldogs will turn to junior Jordan Waylen, seniors Evan Biegley, Bobby Hahn and Nick Pappas to continue their roles as starters.

Waylen (9.4 ppg.), Biegley (8.9), Hahn (7.1) and Pappas (5.1) were all offensive contributers a year ago.

"We have a lot of height," Oertner said. "But, that doesn't always equal wins. Pappas is every bit of 6-6. Beigley's is 6-3, Jordan is 6-2 and [Joe] Seremula is 6-2."

While Waylen, Biegley, Hahn and Pappas are guaranteed their starting roles for right now, Oertner is looking to split time between senior Seremula, who saw action in all but one game last season; classmate Marty Everhart; and sophomore Devin Glose in the three-man position.

When it comes to the expectations for the program, Oertner pinpointed that he knows what his players want to do reach for the stars right away.

But he has more realistic goals for his players.

"Realistically, I think the goal is to qualify for districts at this point I think we will do that," Oertner said. "Hopefully qualifying in our league is possible as we have a shot at winning our division in the Colonial League."