Gary Shelton - 4/193 - SaintPetersBlog

Gary Shelton

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

Injuries mar big victory by Tampa Bay Lightning over Stars

The Tampa Bay Lightning is learning one of the oldest lessons in hockey.

Every time it gets a little bit of a gain, it finds itself in a little more pain.

The Bolts took a big victory Thursday night, beating the Minnesota Wild 4-1 at home. The Wild, 32-17-6, has been the best team in the Western Conference, while the Bolts are still struggling to make the playoffs.

As big as the win was, however, it came with a sting. The Bolts lost Tyler Johnson, Vlad Namestnikov and Cedric Paquette — all centers — to injuries to their left legs. Coach Jon Cooper had no further information on the injuries.

“It doesn’t sound encouraging for any of them,” Cooper said. “If we got one of them back for Saturday, it would be a blessing.”

Nikita Kucherov scored two goals for the Lightning, one on a power play (the first in 12 games for the Stars). Victor Hedman had a goal and an assist. Andrej Sustr also scored a goal for Tampa Bay.

Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy won for the Bolts, continuing his play since the trading deadline.

“He’s definitely holding down the fort,” said Anton Stralman. Vasilevskiy stopped 32 of 33 shots.

“You’ve got to put that one up there (with the Lightning’s best wins),” Cooper said. “Especially that last 12 minutes when were limited in our players. We were responsible, gritty, gutty, getting in shot lanes.”

The Lightning is home Saturday night against Florida.

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Bucs add speed, strength in free agency to try to improve their team

The Tampa Bay Bucs, trying to improve their team for the coming season, have added strength and speed from the nation’s capital.

The Bucs signed the defensive tackle and wide receiver DeSean Jackson Wednesday on the first day of free agency.

The big catch, so to speak, is Jackson, who led the NFL last year with an average 17.9 yards per catch. He will immediately slot opposite Pro Bowler Mike Evans, and immediately promises to help the rest of the offense.

Quarterback Jameis Winston has had trouble with his deep ball; Jackson gives him a game-breaker who can separate from a corner. It will be harder to double-team Evans, and tight end Cameron Brate should be able to work underneath.

“It is rare to find a player in free agency with the combination of speed and natural playmaking ability of a DeSean Jackson,” said Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht. “DeSean is a smart, gifted athlete who has averaged more than 17 yards per reception throughout his nine-year career and brings the type of veteran experience and deep threat receiving ability that will have an immediate impact on our offense.”

Baker should move into the starting lineup opposite Gerald McCoy.

Per Stats, Inc., Baker has 64.5 combined quarterback knockdowns and hurries over the past two seasons. Dating back to 2015, Baker is one of six NFL players to post 100+ tackles, 9+ sacks, and 5+ forced fumbles, joining Khalil Mack, Von Miller, Carlos Dunlap, Melvin Ingram and Brandon Graham.

“Chris has excellent size and what really jumps out at you is his ability to flash dominance at times during games and his explosive quickness,” said Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter. “His versatility will make him a great complementary player alongside Gerald McCoy and Clinton McDonald on our interior defensive line.”

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NFL Free agent period the start to the answers for the Bucs

The Tampa Bay Bucs need answers. At the moment, all they have are questions.

What are they to do with Doug Martin?

Who will be the wide receiver opposite Mike Evans?

Is there help on the defensive line? Is there a safety? Another linebacker? Protection for quarterback Jameis Winston?

The Tampa Bay Bucs enter their offseason when free agency begins Thursday. Between that harvest, and the draft, there is an opportunity for the 9-7 Tampa Bay team to get better.

But where to start?

How about wide receiver? The Bucs, supposedly, are hot after Washington receiver DeSean Jackson, who has averaged more than 17 yards a catch for three years. Jackson would be expensive, of course. But you know that going in. And if not Jackson, the team might be interested in Chicago’s Alshon Jeffery or Los Angeles’ Kenny Britt.

Then there is running back, which is complicated by Martin’s positive test for PEDs last year. Martin still owes three games to the Bucs, if he he’s here. It isn’t as good a crop in free agency, of course. Adrian Peterson and Jamal Charles are coming off injury, and Eddie Lacy has had weight problems. Latavius Murray might be a possibility.

On the defensive line, the Bucs have linked to Calais Campbell of Arizona and Washington’s Chris Baker.

Of course, free agency just leads to the draft, another starring vehicle for Jason Licht. Last year, Licht was able to sign one defensive end in free agency and draft another, then sign one cornerback in free agency and draft another. This year, the positions might be receiver, back and safety.

Time for the Bucs to go to work.

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Colors represent effort level for the Florida State football team

The colors say it all at the FSU spring practice these days.

It isn’t always good, either.

FSU coach Jimbo Fisher has assigned three different colored jerseys for his players during spring drills. The colors signify the type of effort given by the players.

Those in garnet practice jerseys, the best level, are presented to Seminole players who give “championship effort.”

White jerseys? Those are for those who give average effort.

And the orange jerseys? Those are reserved for players who aren’t given any effort at all. “Ridiculous,” Fisher says of the orange.

Why Orange? Rivals Florida, Miami and Clemson all wear orange.

“That’s not always a good color around here, is it?” Fisher told the Orlando Sentinel.

By the end of the winter, “85 to 90 percent” of the players were wearing garnet jerseys, and no players were wearing the orange ones.

“It means we’ve got a long way to go,” Fisher said with a smile.

The jerseys were a daily routine for the team.

“The fine line between winning and losing is always those inches,” Fisher said. “That’s what we’ve tried to really emphasize. We rated them every day.”

The jersey decision was one made by the coaches, Fisher said. It’s something he said he’s done in past offseason camps.

“Back in the day, they told you when you were wrong, showed you when you were wrong. That’s what we’re trying to do,” Fisher said. “Educate the kids on the effort, the discipline, the toughness, all the things with what you want to do and how we want it done. Define it.”

“I’ve done it in the past,” he said. “I’ve done it with different teams I’ve been on and different schools I’ve been at and it was very helpful.

“Guys are here for business. They understand they can be friends, on the field they want (to know) who you can count on. I want to show the guys on the field who you can count on every play. I thought (the jerseys) were very helpful and educational.”

The message of accountability is spreading throughout the team, Fisher said. Even returning starters are on notice.

“Sometimes the worst springs I’ve been a part of in the past, we had a lot of guys back,” Fisher said. “They all think they can take it off. We’re going to make sure we get better in every aspect.”

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Rowdies sign forward Deshorn Brown, adding to offense

The Tampa Bay Rowdies hope they have added a bit more offense with the signing of Deshorn Brown.

Brown, 26, has been on a trial with the Rowdies. He most recently played for Shenzen in China League One, where he scored seven goals in 14 matches.

A Major League Soccer veteran, Brown scored 20 goals in 62 appearances for the Colorado Rapids from 2013-2015 before departing for Valerenga in Norway’s Tippeligaen, where he played from 2015-2016. He scored 13 goals in 37 appearances for Valerenga.

“Everyone saw the impact Deshorn made on our team in recent matches, scoring a goal and adding an assist,” Rowdies’ coach Stuart Campbell said. “As a coaching staff, we’ve seen much more of him in training, and he’s been impressive throughout. He brings a lot of quality and experience to our front line, and we’re excited to sign him. He’s another veteran voice in our locker room to guide younger players.”

“I am excited to join the Rowdies,” commented Brown. “The environment and the setup at the club is really professional, which is one of the reasons why I decided to sign here. I like to work hard and help the team, with the main goal of doing my job, which is scoring goals.”

Brown trained with the Rowdies as a guest player in February and March, playing in three matches, including Rowdies’ Suncoast Invitational matches. Brown tallied a goal and an assist in the 2-1 win over the Montreal Impact on February 25.

Factoring in his amateur career with the Des Moines Menace (nine goals in 10 appearances) and Reading United (13 goals in 13 appearances), Brown has averaged 0.32 goals-per-game or better at every club he’s played for.

Brown attended the University of Central Florida and has made 14 appearances for the Jamaican National Team.

The Rowdies play their home opener March 25 against Orlando City B.

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Mistake in overtime allows Rangers to edge Tampa Bay Lightning

In one of their tightest-played games of the season, the Tampa Bay Lightning made the crucial mistake and paid for it.

Late in overtime, an errant pass by defenseman Victor Hedman sailed off target, and the New York Rangers turned it into a breakaway and the winning goal by Mika Zibanejad with 1:04 left in the extra period. The Rangers went on to win, 1-0.

The single point picked up for a regulation tie allowed the Bolts to get to 69, which puts them two points out of the final wild-card slot.

“Victor had it,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. He tried to make a pass and we didn’t get it. All of a sudden now, it’s a quick strike and that’s what overtime becomes. Overtime’s not about creating chances. It’s about capitalizing on mistakes. We made a mistake and they capitalized. That was it.”

Considering how badly the Bolts needed the two points that would have come with a win, Cooper seemed in good spirits.

“I’m really pleased,” Cooper said. “In the end, they’ve got a really good hockey team. They’re good. We’ve been playing really well. It was one of those games that I thought both teams deserved a point. I thought we deserved the other one. But, I say that, and then I think back to the Carolina game and their coach probably was thinking the same thing in that game. Sometimes you get them. Sometimes you don’t. We did everything we could do to try to win that game. Tip your hat to both goaltenders. I know everybody’s screaming for more scoring in the league, but that was a pretty darn exciting 0-0 game.

“You’re talking a Monday night, and that building was rocking. I think the Witkowski-Glass fight had a lot to do with it. I think that got it going, but there was chances (on) both ends. There was big saves. The game had it all. I liked our emotion. Were we perfect? No, but we did everything in our power to win. Give them a  lot of credit: They’re a 40-plus win team and rightfully so. They hung in there. We tilted the ice at times during the game and their goalie made the saves for them. When they tilted the ice on us, Vasy was making saves. Fans got their money’s worth tonight, except for the disappointment of not getting the last point. We needed that point a heck of a lot more than they did.”

The Bolts were 0-for-6 on the power play.

Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy ran his record to 3-0-1 since Ben Bishop was traded.

The Rangers this year have won 24 games on the road, highest in the league.

“I think we took another step tonight,” said defenseman Anton Stralman. I think we upped our game. Maybe for five minutes in the third they had some momentum going, but otherwise I thought we played strong for 60 minutes. That’s what you need this time of year. It’s not the one game that’s going to decide it. It’s the team that can play the most consistent throughout this last stretch that’s going to make it.”

 

Tampa Bay will play at home Thursday night against Minnesota.

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Bucs sign defensive end William Houston before free agency

William Gholston has struck gold.

Gholston, 25, has signed a contract extension with the Tampa Bay Bucs that will pay him $27.5 million over the next five years.

Gholston (6-6, 281) was selected in the fourth round (126th overall) out of Michigan State by Tampa Bay in the 2013 NFL Draft. In his four-year career, the Detroit native has played in 57 games, with 36 starts, totaling 188 tackles (29 for loss), 10.0 sacks, eight passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.  In 2016, Gholston led all Buccaneers defensive linemen in tackles (49), tackles for loss (nine) and run stuffs (5.5), in 14 starts, prior to missing the final two games of the season with an elbow injury.

 Since 2013, Stats, Inc. credits Gholston with 21.5 run stuffs, the ninth-most in the NFL among defensive linemen during that time. His 188 tackles during that span are also the ninth-most among defensive linemen in the NFL, while his 29 tackles for loss are fourth-best among defensive linemen from the 2013 NFL Draft class.

“I’m very excited. It’s an amazing day, a great day for me and my family,” said Gholston, a fourth-round draft pick in 2013 out of Michigan State. “I’m very glad to be able to spend the next five years of my career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, hopefully more than that. I’m ready to go.”

Gholston can make as much as $9-million more over the five-year contract with incentives.

“We really went over everything, all the numbers, all the pros and cons, and I felt like Tampa came with an offer I couldn’t say no to,” said Gholston, who made a total of $2.56-million in his first four seasons but will get double that each season in his new deal. “I love the area, love the team. I have relationships with everybody in the locker room and really respect the knowledge of all the coaches that we have.”

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Clearwater’s Keith Thurman beats Danny Garcia for another belt

Over his left shoulder, Keith Thurman held a world championship belt.

In his right hand, Thurman held another world championship belt.

Next?

Thurman beat previously unbeaten champion Danny Garcia in a split decision Saturday night to double his titles. The two were divided on judges at 115-113, while the third judge scored it 116-112 in favor of Thurman. The CBS unofficial scorekeeper also had at 116-112.

“One Time became Two Times, baby,” said Thurman, referring to his “One Time” nickname. “I thought I outboxed him. I thought it was a clear victory. “Danny came to fight,” Thurman told CBS after the fight. “If a judge likes his fight style and didn’t like that I was moving backward, I understand.”

It was the 10th unification fight in the welterweight division, the third between unbeaten opponents.

Neither fighter knocked down the other.

Where does Thurman go next? He owns two of the four welterweight belts, and if he wants to unify the rest, he’s going to have to wait a while. Titlist Kell Brook is fighting Errol Spence next, and titlist Manny Pacquiao is supposed to be fighting Amir Khan.

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Rowdies pull exhibition victory out late against Tampa Spartans

Okay, give the Tampa Bay Rowdies more MLS competition.

These college kids are just too tough.

The Rowdies took a 1-0 victory in an exhibition game against the University of Tampa Spartans, scoring in the 89th minute to take the win. Trialist Martin Paterson scored the game’s only goal in the final minute.

“We played in some difficult conditions tonight,” Rowdies’ coach Stuart Campbell said. “It’s windy and the pitch is bobbly, but the guys just kept going. We had loads and loads of possession but didn’t quite capitalize on it until the end.”

There are now three weeks and just two matches left before Tampa Bay opens the 2017 United Soccer League regular season.

Paterson’s goal, which took a slight deflection before beating the Spartans goalkeeper, was assisted by Alex Morrell.

“UT sat very, very deep and let us have the ball,” Campbell said. “I spoke to the team at halftime to tell them we’re going to come up against this at times during the season when opponents just sit off and let us have the ball but make it hard for us to break them down, so we have to keep moving the ball quick and find a way through. I’m happy with the way the guys kept going. It would have been easy for the guys to let the game wither away and finish 0-0, but the guys had so much drive to not let that happen.”

Tampa Bay dominated possession and nearly the entire match was played in the Spartans’ end, but the Rowdies weren’t sharp enough in front of goal to put the match out of reach until very late.

Tampa Bay’s remaining preseason schedule includes matches against the Jacksonville Armada next Saturday night and then Miami FC on March 18. Both matches will be played away from home.

“It was a strange game, but I think we stayed on track for the regular season,” Campbell said. “They were very compact and solid and they protected their goalkeeper very well. I have to give a lot of credit to (UT Coach) Adrian Bush because that’s the best UT team we’ve come up against and we play them just about every year.”

The Rowdies’ lineup featured just eight signed players, joined by trialists Akira Fitzgerald and Kyle Porter, plus training player Zack Hamm. Fitzgerald played the full 90 minutes and kept a clean sheet.

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Nikita Kucherov’s fancy move gets shootout victory for Lightning

Nikita Kucherov brought the playground to Buffalo Saturday night.

In a shootout against the Sabres, Kucherov, of the Tampa Bay Lightning, swept toward the goal. He shot, then whipped his stick over the puck as it slid past Buffalo Sabres goalie Robin Lehner.

“He brought the schoolyard to the big stage,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “You better score on that, and he did.”

Tyler Johnson scored in regulation, and Brayden Point and Kucherov scored in the shootout for a 2-1 win.

Ryan O’Reilly scored in regulation for Buffalo.

“It definitely was on purpose,” Tyler Johnson said. “He does it in practice all the time. I think a lot of people mess around doing that but you never think in a NHL game. But that’s Kuch. That’s going to be a goal that’s on YouTube forever, so I can’t wait to see it.”

Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy won his third straight game for the Bolts, stopping 31 of 32 shots in regulation and two more in overtime.

The Bolts are now within three points of the Islanders for the final wild-card slot.

Tampa Bay is home on Monday night against the Rangers.

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