ST. PETERSBURG SWANS - 2016 USAFL DIVISION IV GRAND FINALISTS

SWANS IN FLIGHT: PLAYER HIGHLIGHTS

DOG DAYS: AS SUMMER ROLLS ON, IT’S BACK TO BASICS IN ‘BURG

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St. Petersburg 2016 ROY Austen Kugler applies the tackle in Ft. Lauderdale, July 8. PHOTO: Katherine Matson.

With the calendar about to flip from July to August, two things are assured: The coming month will bring the road home for the AFL Premiership; and the summer heat in Florida will be in full force.

Even as the club lost a training session last week to a series of late-July thunderstorms, the St. Petersburg Swans training and practice regimen has been a consistent bellweather of the side’s on-field outcome. August will be no different.

The club’s training and practice sessions continue this evening on the Common at Crescent Lake, with interim Senior Coach Matt Elliott looking to instill greater attention to fundamentals at the Thursday session.

With greater Saturday numbers, it will be more of the same – plus the added challenge of a post-training scrimmage under what’s sure to be a blazing Florida sun.

Midday temperatures in St. Pete have been well above 100 degrees over the past several weeks, with record heat expected this weekend.

The club will be pushing for endurance under those tough conditions in looking for a competitive edge, heading into a footy-packed late summer.

Tonight’s session begins at 6 PM, and Saturday’s training is set for 10 AM, with a scrimmage expected to begin at 11 AM. Both sessions are on the Common at Crescent Lake Park in St. Petersburg.

All trainings and practices are always free, and are open to co-ed players of all ages and skill level.

SWANS SCORCH SUNS IN WILTING HEAT, 27-14

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St.Petersburg Interim Coach Matt Elliott notched his first win on the season in a heat-shortened affair, Saturday in St. Petersburg. FILE PHOTO: Katherine Matson.

The St. Petersburg Swans outlasted a heat-battered Suncoast Suns side, running out 4.3.27 – 2.2.14 winners Saturday on the Common at Crescent Lake.

In his first action of the season, footy veteran Marc Karver booted two majors to lead all scorers

With the ‘feels like’ temperature on the ground at a dangerous 115 degrees, the truncated match was called when several players showed signs of exhaustion, as the match followed a rigorous training session.

Amaran Subramanian stood out once again on defense, while Ken Scheidt and Interim Coach Matt Elliott paced the offense.

The match, originally scheduled for a 7 PM start was shifted to 11 AM to avoid already troublesome weather pattern, with heavy thunderstorms in the forecast.

The encouraging win was the Swans’ second consecutive in Major League Footy action, and St. Pete is now 3-4 in metro action and 3-7 overall.

While the win does move St.Petersburg to the top of the ladder due to a scheduling quirk, the Bloods have much work to do to overcome an insipid 82.9%.

The Swans return to Major League Footy play Saturday, August 5 vs. StarfishFC.

BUILDING THE ‘D’: SWANS DEFENSE TAKING SHAPE

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Austen Kugler (#9) lowers the boom, with Benjamin Walker in pursuit of the fumble, July 8 vs Ft. Lauderdale. PHOTO; Katherine Matson

While the results may not yet be apparent on the ladder, the progress of the St. Pete Swans’ defensive development may yet tell the tale of the 2017 campaign.

Last season, St. Petersburg relied on an explosive offense that

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St. Petersburg 2016 ROY Austen Kugler applies the tackle in Ft. Lauderdale, July 8. PHOTO: Katherine Matson.

has yet to find its form in 2017, forcing the backliners to step up.

So far, the group has responded, as the Swans have tightened up over the past month, yielding less than 60 points in their last four matches.

With new recruits Jeremy Tartt joining with vets Kenneth Scheidt and Benjamin Walker; improved tackling from 2016 ROY Austen Kugler and others, the defense has given St. Pete chances to stay close to opponents in three consecutive road matches.

Although the backline sorely misses the presence of defensive stalwart Jason Kofender (shoulder), and is also hampered with Jake Keglor (neck) also shaking off imjury, there are signs the defense can carry the club until the yips on offense have passed.

Saturday in Ft. Lauderdale, the Swans fell behind by 14 points just moments into the game, as the Squids’ came out with pressure and controlled general play from the start.

From there, though, the defense was able to regain its bearings, limiting the hosts to just 25 points the rest of the way before a late flurry turned back St. Pete’s nascent comeback attempt.

With Interim Coach Matt Elliott making adjustments that saw Walker move to ruck, the St. Petersburg defensive effort gelled just a bit late on the day, but shows encouraging signs.

Should the club find a way to put the pieces together as the offense finds its legs, credit will go to a tenacious, hard-working defense that’s been holding down the fort to this point.

TUNE IN TO THE AFL PROTECTED ZONE – WEDNESDAYS!

Tune in to every episode of the AFL Protected Zone, an informative, entertaining and in-depth look at all things Aussie Rules with hosts Eddy Jay and Lintang Enam – every Wednesday!

LATE SPARK NOT ENOUGH; SWANS FALL, 57-21

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Former Denver Bulldog Torian Johnson booted two majors in his Swans debut, July 8th at Ft. Lauderdale.

A sharpened Ft. Lauderdale (1-1) attack knotted the Florida Derby series, using relentless pressure to exact a measure of revenge on the St. Petersburg Swans (2-7) and run out thirty-six point winners Saturday at Central Broward Regional Park and Stadium.

St. Petersburg had bested their cross-state rivals by 108 points in the sides’ last meeting.

Rushing out to a 14-0 lead at the first break, a more balanced Ft. Lauderdale side took advantage of a comparatively flat Bloods’ effort, and seemed poised to break open the proceedings at any moment, although St. Pete did just enough to hang around dangerously in very humid conditions.

With Ft. Lauderdale veterans Cameron Pinnock and Gavin Caddy both sidelined, the club’s eager young guns were all-too-happy to pull the weight, frequently turning back any opportunities the Swans could muster, and especially dominating play forward 50s throughout the affair.

The Swans, playing in Matt Elliott’s debut as Interim Senior Coach, finally came to life in the fourth quarter, showing flashes of the offensive explosiveness that took them to the 2016 USAFL Division Four Grand Finals.

With Benjamin Walker growing more confident in ruck, Aaron Crittenden and former Denver Bulldog Torian Johnson emerged as a potentially lethal combination. Crittenden twice made stellar handballs over the top to a fleeting Johnson, who converted both for early fourth period goals that gave St. Pete a momentary chance to fight their way back in.

While that would not to be – as Ft. Lauderdale would answer with two lightining-strike crumbs to seal the proceedings.

The loss drops St. Petersburg to 2-7 overall and 0-3 in USAFL league play, with all three losses coming on the road.

Ft. Lauderdale will visit St. Pete later this summer, as plans are in the works for a deciding rubber match for the 2017 Florida Derby Series.

1 2  3  4 F
St. Petersburg
0.0 0.1  1.0  2.2 3.3.21
Ft. Lauderdale
2.2 1.2  2.5  3.0 8.9.57

SWANS, SQUIDS SQUARE OFF IN FLORIDA DERBY

STPSFLL0708Florida’s USAFL clubs meet Saturday at Central Broward Regional Park, as St. Petersburg visits the hosting Ft.Lauderdale Fighting Squids in the 2017 Florida Derby.

Game time is 3 PM (subject to change).

Last season, the clubs split a USAFL home-and-away series, with the home sides winning each – first, a Swans’ blowout win at Four ‘N Twenty Field at Campbell Park in the 2016 season opener – repaid with a courageous Squids’ win on their home ground.

While the sides have in fact met in 2017 metro rules play (a 108-point Swans win in St. Pete), this Saturday marks the first clash with both clubs at full strength.

The Red and White offense will be led by USA Revolution US Men’s National Team member Dustin Jones in his final action before heading to Melbourne for the AFL 2017 International Cup, as St. Pete looks for their second consecutive win, and first USAFL win on the 2017 campaign.

BRAVE SWANS SHOW METTLE IN NASHVILLE

With the side’s grit and determination on full display on the pristine expanse of the Metro Soccer Complex, an undermanned St. Petersburg Swans battled hard in two nail-biting matches in Nashville Saturday.

Competing in the Nashville Kangaroos’ 20th Anniversary Season Homecoming Tournament, and faced with a daunting schedule that saw them in both 1PM and 3PM matches after long-distance travel, St. Petersburg rallied impressively in both matches, posted leads in both, and showed all of the impressive fight that has taken them from start-up club to Division III in just two seasons of USAFL play.

Jake Keglor, the Swans’ leading scorer so far in 2017, added another three majors in the Tennessee sun, putting him at 31 goals on the year. USAFL veteran Brad Freeman added the most impressive crumb in club history, taking advantage of a sustained run of pressure, and scrappy play all-round by Tim Kleman, Jaron Weaver, Kyle Roun, USA Revos 2017 member Dustin Jones, Patrick Bilder, Ken Scheidt and Aaron Crittenden saw St. Pete on the cusp of a positive decision in both matches.

After scraping together a one-point halftime lead vs. Atlanta, St. Petersburg completely dominated game play in the second half, but were unable to convert extended opportunities in forward 50s, coming up with just one goal to six minors. That inability to convert resulted in a 7-point decision.

A particularly strong offensive second half vs. Nashville saw the Red & White off the mat, storming back from a two-goal deficit at the big break to eke out a 1-point lead with time an issue. Two quick goals by the hosting Kangaroos came in the waning moments to ice the contest.

The Swans return to practice Thursday evening at 6 PM, and will return to full training and a scrimmage Saturday morning at 10 AM. Both are at the club’s regular training ground – on the Common at Crescent Lake in St. Petersburg. Trainings and practices are always free, and are open to co-ed players of all ages and skill level. For information, please call or text: (727) 490-9217.

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Atlanta 1.5 3.2 4.7.31
St. Petersburg 2.0 1.6 3.6.24
1 2 F
Nashville 4.5 4.2 8.7.55
St. Petersburg 2.4 4.1 6.5.41