CEFL: Thonon Black Panthers take down Calanda Broncos in nailbiter

The Thonon Black Panthers from France punched their ticket to the second round of the 2023 CEFL Championship by defeating Switzerland’s Calanda Broncos on Sunday by a score of 38-35.

After both teams traded touchdowns to begin the game, the Black Panthers marched down the field on their second possession and approached the end zone but fumbled a quarterback sneak attempt and the Broncos recovered.  Calanda then took the ball all the way down the field and punched it in the end zone following a 98 yard touchdown drive, seemingly seizing the momentum.  

After a Thonon field goal which made the score 14-10, Black Panthers defensive back Adel Bafdile intercepted Broncos quarterback John Uribe and set up his team with great field position.  A Nicholas Khandar rushing touchdown gave the Black Panthers the lead, and the team would quickly extend their lead to 24-14 when quarterback Jose Tabora found receiver Pierre-Yves Dayres for a 43 yard touchdown.  The Broncos were only left with 43 seconds on the clock before halftime, but quickly marched down the field and found the end zone on a pass from Uribe to Adrian Sunderhauf, making the score 24-21 in favor of the Black Panthers at halftime.

The Broncos received the kickoff after halftime, and Uribe led his team down the field and found the end zone on a 4-yard strike to Maxwell Gray.  The Black Panthers quickly responded, though, as Tabora kept the ball himself on a 2 yard touchdown run to retake the lead.  Uribe was intercepted again on the next series, this time by Paul Pellet, and Thonon would take advantage, as Tabora found tight end Jack Pilkerton on a 111-yardstrike to extend the lead to 38-28.  Calanda bounced back, as they used a big gain on a flea flicker to set up an Uribe passing touchdown to Gray to cut the lead to 3 with around 2 minutes left.  However, the Black Panthers recovered the ensuing onside kick, and were able to run out the clock, as the Broncos had no timeouts left.

Calanda ball carrier leaping over Black Panthers defender. Photo: Broncos/Sergio Brunetti

This game was marked by a drastic difference in the two offenses.  While the Black Panthers used a relatively balanced attack, as they had 262 yards passing and 135 yards rushing, the Broncos were quite the opposite.  Calanda had 402 total yards, and 401 of those came through the air.  They ran the ball 10 times for a total of one yard, but their high-flying passing game allowed them to stay in the game.  Tfoure 4 sacks and two interceptions that the Black Panthers’ defense recorded seemed to make the difference in this contest.

The Black Panthers now set their sights on Florence, Italy, where they will travel next to take on Firenze Guelfi, the defending champs of the Italian Football League.  That game will take place on May 13th, and it looks to be another interesting battle.

Photos: Sergio Brunetti

A current student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Carter played football in high school and has been a lifelong avid football fan.