Sometimes, picking the favorite couldn't be easier. Other times, well, you might as well draw names out of a hat.
As for the Peninsula District boys' soccer race … anyone have a spare lid?
We have defending champion Kecoughtan, which returns the district's top scorer but loses its All-PD keeper. We also have Gloucester and Menchville, who return key personnel but are under new management. Hmm ...
OK, we didn't literally pick names from a hat. But in a close call:
1. GLOUCESTER (7-1-1 district). New coach Field Shepherd takes over a group that All-PD MF Kyle Rowe along with veteran GK Lee Loudermilk, D Jacob Allen, and F Dustin Tietjen. The transitions should be no issue: Shepherd coached the Dukes' JV team the last six years.
2. MENCHVILLE (7-2-0). David Haas, a former Monarch and Christopher Newport star, takes over. He returns PD Player of the Year Jack Nichting, whose hat trick in the PD final clinched Monarchs' spot in the regionals. And if these guys play like he did ...
3. KECOUGHTAN (8-1-0). A big loss is All-PD GK Cory Maier, but the Warriors should be more than OK with the return of MF/F Robert Kerby, the district's top scorer last year. An interesting mix of veterans and youth.
4. WOODSIDE (5-4-0). The Wolverines' strength should be on defense, where William Sanchez and GK Daniel Scharsich return. Up front, F Garrett Robinson is back after a productive freshman season.
5. BETHEL (7-2-0). The Bruins will miss all-district Colby West but return a pair of senior veterans in F Dominique Dessaro, MF/D Nick Nguyen. Coach Jake Carel also likes freshmen Jackson and Jacob Miles, who he says will be "future stars."
6. WARWICK (3-4-2). The Raiders made a surprise run to the district final before losing in overtime to Menchville. Three key players from that team are back: F Christian Murphy, MF Shawn Bennett, and GK Matthew Finn.
7. DENBIGH (3-5-1). In assessing his team, Coach Bill Dittmar says he sees "few limits" with its potential. He has five seniors with at least two years of varsity experience: Jacob Rogala, Andy Fry,
8. HAMPTON (1-8-0). The Crabbers lost 12 seniors, including seven starters, but this could be a fresh start. Among the returnees are F Tyler Moore (4 goals) and GK Bo Lomax (80 saves, 63.64 percent). MF Josh Brooks led the JV last year with seven goals.
9. PHOEBUS (1-8-0). The Phantoms went from 5-4 in the PD in 2011 to 1-8 in '12, but they hope to have another turnaround. Among the veterans are D Dylan Kremp, MF Griffin Loughman, and MF Chris Berry.