The Bay Rivers District, generally regarded as the deepest in boys soccer on the Group AA state level, flexed its muscles last spring in Radford, where Jamestown won its second title in five seasons.
The league is expected to be at least seven good teams deep and the 2013 race for the title is considered wide open. Three coaches used almost the same exact words in saying they expect the eventual champion to have a loss-and-a-tie or two ties.
For those more interested in star power, check out Tabb scoring machine Riley Maw, a dynamic William and Mary-bound senior who netted 36 goals a year ago.
1. Jamestown (9-0). F Jon Cullom is committed to his club team this spring, and replacing his 31 goals will be a huge challenge. Only three starters — D Matt Cullom, D Mike Connell and D Wilson Coughenour — return from the state championship team, but the Eagles reload routinely.
2. Lafayette (6-1-2). Were William and Mary-bound MF Alfonso Speed not focusing on club soccer, the Rams would be the favorite. As it is, they have good returning talent in F Calvin Mitchell, MF Emory Trott and GK Alex Emerson along with some superb young players moving into the lineup.
3. Tabb (6-1-2). Veteran coach Scott Kuhnle feels getting others to join Maw in scoring will be a big key. All-district selection Sutton Nichols, newcomer Ali Akubaisee and returner Andrew Nicely could make that goal a reality. Matt Candusso has big shoes to fill in goal for 2012 star Tyler Evans.
4. Grafton (5-2-2). The Clippers expect to be in the middle of a crowded district title hunt thanks to the experience of MF Brian Anderson, D Michael Trepte, GK Michael Bly, F Aaron Kaye, MF Dom DiGangi, MF Brett Butt and D Sean Breen.
5. York (6-3). The 2012 district tournament champion lost seven starters, including four first-team all-district picks. But with GK Ben Kinney, MF Chad Latulipe, F Khalil Duncan, D Phillip Cragg and four very good freshman, the Falcons will remain competitive.
6. Warhill (3-6). Jimmy Newell coached the Lions' JV the past four years, so his transition to varsity coach should be smooth. It helps that he has returning experience in Jacob Danserau, Colson Buscher, Mitch Dannon, Drew Coghlan, Malik Zenon, Patrick O'Dell, Brennan Whaley and Miguel Martinez.
7. Smithfield (4-5). With nine starters back, don't be surprised if the Packers give the top five fits. MF William Vaughn, MF William Healy, MF Joran Gibson and athletic D Jacob Dollins give the Packers talent to go with the experience.
8. Poquoson (2-7). Most of the defense, led by GK Michael Moran and Andrew Farrell, returns. For the Islanders to move up in the standings, guys like MF Noah Gendron, F Luke Lang, F Brandon Love and MF Ryan Black must improve the attack.
9. Bruton (1-8). Chemistry shouldn't be a problem as most of last year's lineup is back. The top returners are D Stephen Ford, a second-team all-district selection, and D Evan Albrecht.
10. New Kent (0-9). The Trojans, who had only two ties in 14 games overall last season, have three victories already. F Gunner Gilland, F Matt Thomas and GK Jay Barber are being joined by an increasing infusion of young year-round players.