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Duke takes over 1st place in ACC Coastal

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Duke takes over 1st place in ACC Coastal

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) It's not a misprint. That really is Duke atop the Atlantic Coast Conference's Coastal Division in football.

The Blue Devils' last-minute win over rival North Carolina sets up a meeting of division leaders this week when they visit No. 11 Florida State.

Duke's 33-30 victory on Saturday, plus losses by Miami and Virginia Tech, made the Blue Devils (6-2, 3-1) the division's only team with one conference loss.

It also marked the latest step forward in coach David Cutcliffe's massive reconstruction project at what for years had been one of the biggest laughingstocks in the Bowl Subdivision. Since Duke made its last bowl trip and had its last winning season in 1994, the Blue Devils went winless four times.

``I'm concerned about our injuries, but I'm not concerned about our emotions,'' Cutcliffe said. ``I don't think we're going to come out of here satisfied. I think this team realizes that it can win if it plays well every time we get on the field.''

The Blue Devils were one of four one-loss teams in their division heading into the weekend, joining Miami, North Carolina and Virginia Tech. The Hokies slipped off the pace when they were routed by Clemson and the Seminoles took care of Miami in the late game, giving the top spot in the Costal to Duke.

The tough part will be staying there. The Blue Devils close the season with games against Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Miami, and since the ACC grew to 11 schools in 2004, their win over Clemson that year marks their only victory against any of those teams.

They'll worry about those opponents as they come. For now, it's a time to savor their first win over the Tar Heels since 2003 - and first at home since 1988 - and keep thinking big.

``We know we wanted to go bowling, but this (isn't) it,'' running back Josh Snead said. ``We (have) our eyes set on winning this division and going to the ACC championship, and then going bowling.''

This one was made even more remarkable because they did some things better than any recent - or not-so-recent - Duke team has.

The Blue Devils rolled up 510 total yards, and their 234 yards rushing marked the most by a Duke team since Cutcliffe took over in 2008. Both totals marked season highs allowed by a North Carolina defense that entered ranked in the ACC's top tier in every significant statistical category.

They also overcame a late series of events that, in most other years, would have led to yet another loss.

Duke led virtually all night, only to have a two-touchdown lead evaporate in the fourth quarter. North Carolina went up 30-26 on a bizarre play: The Tar Heels' Erik Highsmith fumbled after a long catch, Duke couldn't recover the ball and Gio Bernard scooped it up and scored.

Many previous Duke teams would have folded there. This one responded by going 87 yards in 14 plays, converting three third-and-longs to move to the North Carolina 5. On fourth down in the closing seconds, Sean Renfree rolled and threw over the middle to Jamison Crowder - who held on in the end zone as he was upended by a pair of defenders for the winning touchdown.

``That's just something that you dream about since you were a little kid,'' Crowder said. ``Watching a lot of ballgames and you see players catch game-winning touchdowns or hit game-winners in basketball. It's just a dream come true for me. I always think about that, scoring the last touchdown to win the game. It couldn't have come better against Carolina.''

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Trotz's future in Washington remains unsettled on eve Stanley Cup Final

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USA TODAY Sports

Trotz's future in Washington remains unsettled on eve Stanley Cup Final

Caps Coach Barry Trotz doesn’t have a contract beyond the Stanley Cup Final, and any potential talks about an extension will wait until the trophy is awarded, GM Brian MacLellan said Friday.

“No,” MacLellan said, asked if a decision on Trotz’s future had been made. “We’re going to address everything after the playoffs are over.”

Trotz’s four-year contract expires at season’s end.

It’s rare for a head coach to enter a season while in the final year of his deal. But that’s how the Caps decided to handle Trotz’s situation last offseason after another strong regular season performance ended with yet another second round playoff exit at the hands of the Penguins.

It was a suboptimal situation for Trotz, a 55-year-old who ranks fifth all-time in regular season victories but, until this year, had never led any team beyond the conference semifinals.

Despite his lame duck status, all Trotz did was produce his best coaching performance to date. 

Consider:

  • While visiting his son in Russia last summer, Trotz visited Alex Ovechkin in Moscow to discuss the changes he’d like to see the Caps’ captain make to his training and his game.
  • When the Caps reconvened for training camp in September, it was clear there were still some hurt feelings in the locker room. So Trotz and his assistants backed off, allowing some necessary healing to occur.
  • When the team suffered back-to-back blowout losses in Nashville and Colorado back in November, Trotz initiated a tell-it-like-it-is team meeting that many players have pointed to as the turning point of the regular season, which ended with the team’s third straight Metropolitan title.
  • Trotz also got his highly-skilled lineup to buy into a more structured, detailed style of play late in the campaign, a transformation that prompted MacLellan to call this playoff run the most defensively responsible of Trotz’s tenure.
  • In each of the two previous conference semifinals, Washington was defeated by Pittsburgh and, as a result, the Penguins had become a physical and a mental hurdle for the Caps. Earlier this month, Trotz helped direct Ovechkin and Co. past the two-time Cup champions.

Although MacLellan wouldn’t say much about Trotz’s contract, he did say that he’s noticed a big change in Trotz’s day-to-day approach to his job, a change possibly prompted by the coach’s free agent status.

“I think his demeanor has changed a little bit,” MacLellan said. “He seems a little lighter, a little looser, a little less pressure. Maybe a little more freedom about how he goes about things. He’s more relaxed, I guess would be the way to describe him.”

MacLellan also acknowledged the job Trotz’s has done this season, beginning with his delicate handling of the dressing room to start the year.

“I think he’s done a good job managing it,” MacLellan said. “To come in this year with so many questions—from my point of view, the lineup questions weren’t that big of a deal—but just the emotional state of our coming into to start the year [and] how to handle that. I think he’s done an outstanding job.”

Indeed, Trotz’s situation remains unclear on the eve of the Final. But we do know this much: He’s having one of the best contract years in NHL coaching history.

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Small Virginia town changes name to Capitalsville ahead of Stanley Cup Final

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FB/The Town of Lovettsville

Small Virginia town changes name to Capitalsville ahead of Stanley Cup Final

Welcome to Capitalsville, Va., population: #ALLCAPS

Hoping to become the Washington Capitals' Stanley Cup headquarters, the small Northern Virginia town of Lovettsville has renamed itself to Capitalsville, Va.

Caps superfan and Mayor of Lovettsville, Bob Zoldos, had a lightbulb moment while watching Game 7 in a local bar and restaurant, Velocity Wings. Overcome with emotion from the win, he decided to take his idea to the town council meeting Thursday and Capitalsville was born after a unanimous vote to "unleash the fury."

This is not the first time name changes have occurred ahead of a big game. Ahead of the Caps' first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Blue Jacket Brewery located in downtown D.C. changed its Twitter handle to "Grujacket Brewery" in support of goaltender Philipp Grubauer.

The name change from Lovettsville to Capitalsville is temporary, with the plan to keep the new name through the end of the Stanley Cup Final. However, Zoldos hopes the sign brings in other Caps superfans from across the DMV to take in a piece of history 20 years in the making. 

Here's to hoping Capitalsville brings the city some luck heading into Game 1 on Memorial Day.

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