The schedule-makers didn’t do the North Vermilion boys basketball team any favors when they drew up the start of the District 8-3A season.

If the Patriots (9-4) plan to be part of the league’s championship picture in February, they’ll have to survive an early onslaught of road tests, starting Tuesday with a trip to Vermilion Parish foe Erath (8-6).

“We go on the road to start, and hopefully we can steal a few,” North Vermilion coach Jack LeBlanc said. “I feel we’ve played some tough games on the road. I think our guys have prepared for it and know what’s ahead of them.”

North Vermilion is faced with the prospect of playing its first two district games on the road — it travels to Kaplan next Tuesday — and four of its first five games away from home.

The payoff could come in February when the Patriots host four of six games, including league favorites E.D. White (9-2) and Patterson (8-3) in the same week.

“I feel like we can be in the mix,” LeBlanc said. “Coming out of our last four to five games, we’ve seen solid competition. We felt those teams would help prepare us for district.”

North Vermilion, which returned only senior starter Dade Dieterich at guard, opened with a 5-0 record, including a 72-48 victory over Erath in the opening round of the Vermilion Parish tournament.

The Patriots suffered their first defeat of the season in the same tournament, falling 72-48 to Abbeville, before losing 72-61 to Pine Prairie.

North Vermilion took part in two more tournaments, splitting a pair of games in Jennings (losing 54-48 to the host Bulldogs). The Patriots overcame a 68-44 first-round loss to Class 3A state runner-up St. Louis in their own tournament after Christmas with wins over Church Point (60-45) and Iota (62-44).

“Our schedule was set up to give us the best possible chance to compete,” LeBlanc said.

Dieterich, the team’s lone senior, averages 12 points and teams with freshman point guard Malik Criner (14.0 points) in the backcourt with sophomore forward Ryan Broussard and sophomore center Grant Dardar supplying 9 and 7 rebounds.

“We definitely have a big challenge ahead of us jumping into this district,” LeBlanc said. “I know our guys are looking forward to it. We’ve never started district this early before. Usually we’ve had another week or two to prepare, but we’re going to jump in and see Tuesday.”