LIVESTREAM: French Season Kicks Off As St. Ouen Cougars Get Set To Defend Their Title

The 2017 Fédération Française de Football Américain (FFFA) Elite season kicks off on February 4 with one big question.

Can back-to-back champions the St. Ouen Cougars three-peat?

The Cougars dropped only two games in 2016 en route to their second straight Casque de Diamant Championnat – French championship – title.

St. Ouen defeated the Nice Dauphins 28-17 in the 2016 final, taking revenge for a narrow regular season defeat to the surprising Dauphins from the south of France.

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However, St. Ouen enters the 2017 season severely depleted according to head coach Xavier Mas. The team has lost 20 players, 10 of them starters, most due to retirement although Diamond Helmet MVP wide receiver Jefferson Alexandre succumbed to a lucrative offer from the Thonon Black Panthers.

To replace all these departures, the Cougars gave a chance to five players coming up from the B Team, two coming up from their U19 team and signed 10 players from Div III or regional teams. However, Coach Mas has added quarterback DeAuntre Smiley and tight end Teddy Corwin from Illinois State.

Nevertheless, St. Ouen still has to be considered one of the favorites given the strength of their program.

In the first round of action, the 2017 finalists the Nice Dauphins play host to newly promoted Bron-Villeurbanne Falcons while the Thonon Black Panthers take on the Aix en Provence Argonautes. Sunday February 5 will see the defending champion St. Ouen Cougars play at home against the always dangerous La Courneueve Flash. The second Sunday contest will feature newcomers the Rouen Leopards at home to the visiting La Queue en Brie Gladiators.

Saturday Feb. 4

Nice Dauphins – Bron-Villeurbanne Falcons (Postponed due to weather)

The Dauphins are coming off a breakout season which saw them in the league lead midway through the season including a win against the defending champion St. Ouen Cougars. Relying on the powerful running game provided by Rondell White, Nice survived a late season falter and charged right into the championship game ultimately losing to a tough Cougars squad. White is back along with Eddie Elliot and the Dauphins are looking to continue their excellent play into 2017.

The Bron-Villeurbanne Falcons who went undefeated in 2016 in the 2nd division, have just been promoted but have been active in the free agent market signing quarterback Moses Skillon from Morgan State University and safety Carvonte Hill. The return of running back Brice Rontet, a French national team stalwart, gives the Falcons an impressive opening day roster.

Watch LIVE!

Thonon Black Panthers – Aix en Provence Argonautes

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This may be the most interesting matchup of the weekend as the Black Panthers look to improve on a dismal 2016 season which saw them miss the playoffs for the first time in many years. New head coach Fabien Ducousso expects his team to improve at all levels of the game:

“My first ambition for this season is not to enter the championship finals or be th champions! For me these two elements will be the result of what I expect from this team, namely that the players progress, flourish and form a real group above all. If we live up to our expectations, we will win the French championship.”

In 2016, Aix en Provence handled Thonon with ease defeating them both times the teams met. However, the Argonautes were ousted from the playoffs in the semifinals by the Nice Dauphins.

Watch the game live here. Kickoff 7 pm CET (1 PM EST)

Sunday Feb. 5

St. Ouen Cougars – La Courneuve Flash

This could be an interesting game with the Cougars entering without so many starters from the 2016 championship team. The Flash have bolstered their offensive line with the signing of Jawaugn Arnold who played in Sweden with the Orebro Black Knights in 2016. He is joined by Robert Trudo from Syracuse. The Flash also added Whittier College wide receivers coach Brett Bartalone to the coaching staff.

The Cougars as mentioned have promoted several players from the B team and the U19 squad but have brought in mobile quarterback DeAuntre Smiley. Smiley will hopefully add some punch to an offense that despite winning the French championship, struggled at times in 2016 and averaged just under 30 points a game.

Watch live! Sunday Feb. 5, 2 pm CET (8 am EST)

Rouen Leopards – La Queue en Brie Gladiators

The Leopards moved up from the second division where they fashioned a 7-2-1 regular season record and then battled through the qualification playoffs to advance to the top league in France. The Gladiators on the other hand, had trouble in their first year in the French top division finishing the 2016 season with a 1-7-1 record. However with a new head coach in Hugo Pointillart, the club hopes fortunes will change in 2017.

This game is definitely a toss up.

Roger Kelly
Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.
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