For Tamaqua, the road back to respectability has been a long one.

The Blue Raiders went 6-16 last season, which was one more victory over their previous season. Their last District 11 playoff appearance was in 2003-04, when they finished 15-9 under Joe Ligenza.

The challenge for third year head coach Jay Daubert is to build on that while replenishing the Raiders' offense from a year ago.

Michael Taylor has graduated after topping the Raiders with 15.2 points per game last season, while Anthony Bumbulsky averaged 14.8. Also gone are starting center Mike Gurcsik (7.2 points per game) and forward Justin Hubosky.

"We lost 80 percent of our points from last year," said Daubert. "Chickie (Bumbulsky) and Mike were capable of putting up in the 20's. We are trying to find a way to replace those points.

"We are going to need more balanced scoring this year. We want to get 4-5 guys in double digits if we can, and I think we are getting to that point."

Tamaqua returns three letterwinners from last season. Spencer Bennett, a 5-8 senior (4.6 ppg.), returns in the backcourt. Also back are Zach Lakitsky, a 6-0 swingman (3.2 ppg.), and Mike Streisel, a 6-2 forward, the leading returning scorer at 7.7 points per game.

Bennett will be the primary point guard, with Jake Fegley, a 5-8 junior, at shooting guard, although Daubert said they could switch off as needed. Joe Rudy, a 5-10 senior, will also see time at guard.

Trevor Reinhardt, a 6-3 senior, will be at center, and he will be backed up by Jonathan Ansbach, a 6-2 senior.

Also in reserve for the Raiders are Eric Bachert, a 6-0 senior forward, as well as guard Matthew Kurek, a 6-1 junior, and sophomore Tyler Krell, a 6-2 sophomore.

The Raiders don't have a lot of height, so they will continue to use a motion offense system. Defensively, Daubert will mix things up, combining man-to-man with trapping zone defenses.

Seven of the 10 players on the varsity roster are upperclassmen, and the majority of them have been around as the program has struggled through the lean times.

"We have a group here that's dying to win," stated Daubert. "They've come through from seventh grade until now and overall we've been well under .500. I hope they can maintain that hunger, even if things don't go well at times. They've put their time in, and they are ready to work hard."

The Raiders open with their first five games at home, and that could set the tone for this season.

"If we can get some wins there, that could give us the confidence to get going," said Daubert. "One thing I've been saying to the kids is that you create your own luck. Thomas Jefferson once said, 'I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.' We have our kids buying into that. Sometimes you have to create your own breaks.

"We're excited," added Daubert. "We're definitely shooting for Districts. That would be a nice thing for our seniors to achieve and to set a bar for our younger kids to surpass."