Gary Shelton - 6/180 - 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.

Rowdies re-sign Tampa Bay’s own Darnell King to contract

The Tampa Bay Rowdies have added another key piece to their lineup with the re-signing of defender Darnell King.

King, 26, just completed his second season with the Rowdies. His signing was the 11th of the Tampa Bay team.

King, 26, is set for his third season in Tampa Bay and is the 11th player to return to the Rowdies this offseason. He played 32 matches for the Rowdies in 2016. The only two matches he did not appear in were due to red card suspensions.

In just two seasons, King has made 60 total appearances for the Rowdies in league and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play.

“Darnell has improved every season of his professional career,” Rowdies coach Stuart Campbell said. “He raises his game each time he plays and that is something that we can continue to build on. He’s a Tampa Bay native, which is always important because we want to represent the community we play in.”

Tampa Bay opens training camp this coming week ahead of its preseason debut in the Florida Cup against VfL Wolfsburg at Al Lang Stadium on January 8.

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Lightning comes from behind to beat St. Louis is solid effort

Now, that’s more like it.

The Tampa Bay Lightning still cannot be certain that its struggles are over, especially not as beaten up as they are. But for a night, the Lightning was a special team again Thursday night.

The Lightning came back from a two-goal deficit to defeat the St. Louis Blues, 5-2. Tampa Bay fell behind with two quick goals in the first period before coming back.

“It’s the National Hockey League,” said coach Jon Cooper. “To me, every win’s impressive. It’s hard to win in this league. I think the one thing that was impressive was you’re down two and you come back and get five unanswered. I was really, really proud of the way we battled back because that game could’ve gone the other way really quick. When the team is emotionally invested, we can be pretty good. It doesn’t matter who’s in there and I thought after the first period we got emotionally invested, and it was a really good effort by the guys.”

Brian Boyle got the Bolts on the board in the second period, redirecting a shot from Victor Hedman. Boyle has four goals in the last five games, and Hedman has eight assists. Michael Bournival tied the game at two with his first goal since 2015.

Alex Killorn broke the tie with his 11th goal 5:25 into the third period.

Jonathan Drouin scored the last two goals, one on an empty netter. He’s scored 10 goals on the season.

It was the first time since mid-November the Bolts have won two straight.

“Ultimately, you get judged in wins and losses, but internally when you work your way out of something, it’s how you’re working your way out,” Cooper said. “I really thought when we played St. Louis in St. Louis and we were down 4-1 and we battled back, we didn’t win that game, but you could see things were turning for us. Ever since then, I think the one game, probably the Vancouver game at home, but other than that, those guys have worked. We’ve been on the point side of most of them. Some of them we haven’t. But I just have liked the way our game has transitioned, and we’ve been getting better. It’s funny, the more guys we lose, guys keep coming in and their effort is willing us to games so it’s been nice.”

The Bolts play at Washington tonight.

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Rowdies latest re-signings include Tamika Mikandawire, Matt Pickens for ’17

The Tampa Bay Rowdies, in the middle of tweaking next year’s lineup, have brought back the captain and the keeper.

The Rowdies announced the re-signings of captain Tamika Mkandawire, a defender, and goalkeeper Matt Pickens. The Rowdies now have signed 10 players equaling 24 seasons of service to the team.

Since joining the club midway through the 2014 season, Mkandawire has appeared in 75 matches in League and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play. He served as club captain in 2016, leading from the heart of the Rowdies’ back line.

“Since he arrived in 2014, Tam has been central to how we want to play at the back,” Rowdies’ coach Stuart Campbell said. “He’s a veteran of the game that leads by example and keeps everything ticking on the field.”

Pickens has appeared in 82 games for the Rowdies in the last three seasons of League and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play. Pickens’ contract expired at the conclusion of the 2016 regular season, but he has opted to return to the club as a free agent for its first season as a member of the United Soccer League.

“Matt brings us consistency at a very important position on the field,” Campbell said. “He’s a great leader for our team because of the high level he’s played at throughout his career. He’s great at organizing the back line and always puts the work in during the week to get ready for each match.”

The Tampa Bay Rowdies kick off their inaugural USL Season in March 2017.

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Lightning ends slump with convincing win over Detroit Red Wings

For a night – at least, for a night – they were the Bolts again

For a game – if only for a game – they skated like the wind and they played solid defense and they got great goaltending.

For once – if it was only for once – the Tampa Bay Lightning had a terrific penalty kill, and a terrific power play. And they won, 4-1 against Detroit.

The Lightning, of course, has to prove that their play will hold up for the long haul. But it starts with one, and at least the Lightning got that in its win over the Detroit Red Wings.

“It’s just one game,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “So, we needed to start off this little rut of home games, and we had to play with desperation. I thought we did that. There’s a lot we can build off this, no question. Really proud of the effort the guys gave tonight. Our game, it started out west, and our game’s getting better. I know it didn’t pay off with two points against Edmonton , but as that game went on, we just kept going tonight and it was really good to see. But, ultimately, bank those points. Good job fellas.

“We got two more before the break and we got a St. Louis team that gave us a tough time up there, but we felt good about our game when we played them and (we’re) looking forward to another crack.”

The Lightning is 10-1 when taking a first-period lead and 10-3 when scoring the first goal.

The Lightning took a 1-0 lead in the first when Brian Boyle scored, then exploded in the second. Jonathan Drouin, Braydon Point and Vlad Namestikov scored for Tampa Bay.

Detroit scored its only goal when Anthony Mantha scored with 11 seconds to play.

Special teams helped the Bolts, who scored two power play goals and killed five penalties.

“We talk about the power play’s been pretty consistent all year,” Cooper said. “It’s been doing well, but it’s the penalty kill. That’s what wins you hockey games, and if our power play had gone 0-for-6, we still would’ve won this game 2-0 because penalty kill goes five-for-five and you need to be able to keep the puck out of the net. A little bit of bend don’t break in us, but I thought they did a heck of a job and probably the difference in the game.”

Ben Bishop left the game with 12:14 left in the first period. Andrei Vasilevskiy came on and stopped 22 of 23 shots.

“Hopefully this is a short-term thing (to Bishop), but Vasy comes in (and) it’s a tight game still at that point,” Cooper said. “Actually, I thought right before we scored that fourth goal, he makes a couple big time saves. So now you’re sitting here is it 3-1 or 4-0? He makes those saves, we go down and score on the 2-on-1 and that was it. You need your goalie to make that timely save. You’ve got to come up with that big save, and they’ve been doing that and hence we’re getting points out of games, so it’s big.”

 Tampa Bay is home Thursday night against St. Louis.

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Don’t expect FSU star running back Dalvin Cook to skip Orange Bowl

Don’t expect FSU running back Dalvin Cook to sit this one out.

Despite a trend toward top players skipping their team’s final bowl games – LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey – to prepare for the NFL draft, Cook is expected to play against Michigan in the Dec. 30 Orange Bowl.

Since Fournette and McCaffrey announced plans to skip their final games, the debate has swirled whether they are being selfish or if they have done all that is expected of them. Still, FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said it would surprise him if Cook joined the list.

“Actually, I would be stunned,” Fisher told the Orlando Sentinel. “I would be.”

Cook himself offered no hint that he might not play.

To finish our season off in a big bowl game in that stadium, it’ll definitely mean a lot,” Cook said Saturday.

“I’m going to give it my all. … It’s going to be something to remember.”

There have been instances of players being injured in their final games, which has affected their pro status.

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Rowdies filling their roster, sign two more midfielders to roster

The Tampa Bay Rowdies have re-signed two of their midfielders to return to the team next season.

The Rowdies signed Keith Savage and Justin Chavez to their roster.

“These players are very important for us,” Rowdies’ coach Stuart Campbell said. “They understand the culture we’ve built here and have contributed greatly both on and off the field. Keith has been here for a long time and Justin is back for his third season, so we expect great things in 2017 from both experienced players.”

Savage, one of just four members of Tampa Bay’s 100 appearance club, has been with the club since the 2011 season. Savage’s three goals in 2016 elevated him to fifth place on the Rowdies’ all-time scoring chart with 15 career goals for Tampa Bay. After missing the 2015 season due to a knee injury, Savage bounced back strong in 2016, making 16 appearances, including nine starts.

Chavez returns for his third season with the Rowdies, having made 22 appearances for the Rowdies last year. 2016 featured Chavez’s first professional goal, scored on September 3, as well as two assists as he asserted himself in his natural position as a holding midfielder.

The Rowdies start their 2017 season in March.

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This time, it’s the Hurricane of Tulsa that reigns in Maimi

Miami is renown for the strength of the Hurricanes.

In this case, it’s the Tulsa Golden Hurricane.

The Hurricanes swamped Central Michigan in a 55-10 victory in the Miami Beach Bowl Monday, scoring 38 points in the second and third periods and coasting.

Senior quarterback Dan Evans led the way, throwing for 304 yards and five touchdowns in the victory. He got plenty of help, as running backs De’Angelo Brewer ran for 105 yards and James Flanders ran for 100. Receiver Josh Atkinson caught 12 passes for 131 yards. Receiver Keevan Lewis caught three scoring passes.

“We’ve had a really good season and this is a really good football team,” Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery said. “I don’t know if we’ve gotten the respect across the country that we deserve. We play with a chip on our shoulder. You saw that tonight.”

Central quarterback Cooper Rush threw three interceptions.

Tulsa finished its season 10-3. Central was 6-7.

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FSU’s Jimbo Fisher finds the rewards of staying in Tallahassee

Turns out, not coaching at LSU is fairly lucrative.

Just ask FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, who received a raise and a contract extension by staying home.

FSU extended Fisher Monday, bumping his salary to $5.5 million and an extension through the 2024 football season. Fisher, whose name was mentioned with both LSU and Texas in the last month, will stick with his young talent with the Seminoles.

Total guaranteed compensation over the length of the 8-year contract will reach $44.4 million.

“Coach Fisher has done an outstanding job in leading our football program, and is clearly one of the top coaches in college football,” Stan Wilcox, Florida State University Vice President and Director of Athletics, said.

“”He is committed to maintaining the elite status of FSU football and we are fortunate and proud to secure him for the long term.”

Fisher was ranked fifth nationally among the sport’s highest paid coaches behind Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh ($9.04 million), Alabama’s Nick Saban ($6.9). Ohio State’s Urban Meyer ($6) and Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops ($5.5), according to USA Today’s college coaches’ salaries database.

It also marks the fourth consecutive year FSU has increased Fisher’s compensation.

“I am proud to be the football coach at Florida State University, and I am happy we were able to reach a long-term contract to have our staff in place for a long time,” Fisher said. “We are committed to developing young men in all phases of their lives and we have the administrative staff in place to do this.

“Florida State is a special place and I look forward to continuing to build on our past success into the future.”

Fisher’s team was a young one this season, with freshman quarterback Deondre Francois leading the way. The Seminoles will be one of the ACC favorites this  coming season.

Fisher is 77-17 at FSU. His team faces Michigan in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 30.

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Does St. Petersburg face tough climb to get MLS team?

From the outside, it would appear that St. Petersburg has some catching up to do in its pursuit of Major League Soccer, particularly if it wants to be on the front-burner of expansion.

St. Petersburg, home of the Tampa Bay Rowdies, has announced that it wishes to expand Al Lang and join the MLS. But the website fiftyfiveone.com, evaluating the 10 cities that are scrambling for a team, ranks St. Petersburg only eighth.

Owner Bill Edwards has said he would like to join the MLS in short order.

However, the website ranks Sacramento and St. Louis as the odds-on favorites, followed by Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Raleigh and San Antonio. On this site’s list, St. Petersburg-Tampa Bay ranks ahead of only San Diego and Nashville. The site used demographics such as population, growth and Forbes 500 companies, which isn’t the entire picture, but it’s a start.

Of course, it’s hard to see the league expanding to both Charlotte and Raleigh. Cincinnati needs stadium expansion. Detroit needs to shore up its ownership.

Regardless,the perception is out there that  if St. Pete is to crack the list – particularly for the next expansion – then there is work to do. Edwards’ plea of fan support is vital, and the stadium plan has to come together quickly.

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Bucs’ winning streak stopped in Dallas by Cowboys’ rookies

Maybe they simply aren’t ready yet. Maybe that explains it.

Maybe it was all of those turnovers (three interceptions, a fumble and a random head-butt by quarterback Jameis Winston.)

Maybe it was that the defense wasn’t as sharp as it has been, giving up hugh games to the Cowboys’ star rookies. They surrendered 279 yards passing to Dak Prescott and 153 yards rushing to Zeke Elliott.

Maybe the Bucs aren’t good enough for a six-game winning streak. Maybe it was missed tackles. Maybe it was a horrid running game. Maybe it was wasted opportunities.

“It would be somewhat understandable  to a game of this magnitude in this stage,” said Bucs’ coach Dirk Koetter. “There’s a lot of young guys out there who haven’t been in a game of this magnitude before.  Like I said, this will serve us well down the road.  It hurts a lot tonight.”

Whatever the reason, the Tampa Bay Bucs finally lost again Sunday night. They fell 26-20 to the Dallas Cowboys, a defeat that put their playoffs hopes in jeopardy. The Bucs are now 8-6, one game behind Atlanta in the NFC South and barely out of the wild card position. Games in New Orleans next week and against Carolina at home in two weeks could change things.

The Bucs started sluggishly, falling behind 17-6. Winston threw two touchdown passes, however, to give Tampa Bay a 20-17 lead in the third quarter. Dan Bailey kicked three field goals in the fourth period, however, to wrap up the win.

“We saw the streaky side a little bit of Jameis,” Koetter said. ” He got off to a slow start. Even though we got a  good drive and got that early lead, against a team like this, you can’t kick field goals and expect to win.  You look at the stats at the end and we’re 1-for-3 in the red zone.  Those other eight points would have helped us.  The second one was that penalty that you mentioned earlier.  That’s been hurting us the last few weeks and it caught up to us tonight.”

The Bucs struggled to run the ball, as Doug Martin gained only 42 yards on 16 carries.

Despite it all, Tampa Bay had the ball five times — twice in the final minutes — with a chance to win. It was stopped an all possessions, however.

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