Flash La Courneuve outlast Thonon Black Panthers in CEFL Bowl XVII

This past Saturday, two French teams battled for the title in the Central European Football League’s 18th annual championship game. Being the first unseeded team to place in the CEFL Bowl, the Thonon Black Panthers fought hard. But it would be the Flash La Courneuve who would come out on top 26-21 and walk away as the 2023 CEFL Champions.

To start off the game, both defenses did not budge in their efforts to stop the opposing offenses. Both teams struggled to move the ball and would lead to a scoreless first quarter.

Eventually with four minutes remaining in the second quarter, the stingy defense would start to help win the championship. Following an interception from Flash defensive back Jordy Adjetey-Adjevi, quarterback Léo Cremades found Guillaume Buquet for a 14-yard score giving the Flash a 7-0 lead.

Flash QB Léo Cremades #16 evading Black Panthers defenders. Photo: Annie Shnaider

The points would continue to come as Thonon would turn the ball over yet again following a Jack Pilkerton fumble. Angelo Druck of the Flash picked it up and took it all the way to the endzone to give the home team a 13-0 lead.

Without another offensive play to be run, on the ensuing kickoff, Black Panthers return man Adel Bafdile would help get his team on the board sprinting past all of the Flash defenders and racing to the end zone making the score 13-7.

Finally, to end off the exciting last four minutes of the half, the Flash would extend their lead once again. After a great kick return from Judson Saint Louis, Cremades would have great field position to toss his second score of the game. This time Sofiane Mahmoudi would be on the other end of the throw and the 32-yard pass gave the Flash a 20-7 lead heading into the half.

To start the second half, the Flash continued with their momentum and put up more points, this time on the ground as Buquet scored his second touchdown of the game on a 26-yard run through the Black Panthers defense increasing to lead to 26-7.

The Flash were now sitting with a three-score lead but Thonon was not about to go down without a fight. After touchdown passes from Black Panthers quarterback José Tabora to Pierre-Yves Dayres and Jack Pilkerton, Thonon found themselves only down 26-21 with 10 minutes still left to play.

Photo: Annie Shnaider

While the winding minutes of the game were scoreless, they were still jam packed with excitement. After stopping the Flash offense on the ensuing drive, Thonon would get the ball right back. However, they were unable to do much as Zachary Curry picked off Tabora for his second interception of the game.

While trying to milk the clock, the Flash kept the ball on the ground and the Black Panther defense took advantage, forcing their first turnover of the game as they recovered the fumble.

After a turnover on downs on the following drive, the Flash would have another chance to chew the clock and put away the game. However, they were not able to move the ball and were forced to punt. The resiliency of the Black Panthers kicked in as Thonon defender Félix Durand blocked the punt and teammate Lucas Veluire came out of the pile with the ball for Thonon.

After trailing by three scores at the start of the second half, the Black Panthers were now only down four and 24 yards away from a potential game winning score.

Tabora then marched his team down to the five-yard line with 32 seconds left to go in the game.

After only rushing for one yard, and throwing two incomplete passes, Thonon’s offense sat at fourth and goal with four yards to go with a chance to win.

Following the snap of the ball, the Flash defense did not do much to pressure Tabora. Sitting in the pocket waiting for a receiver to spring open, Tabora would eventually stretch the play using his legs and would throw a last-ditch attempt to Nicolas Khandar who was sitting open at the goal line. The lob pass was just too high for a leaping Khandar and the ball fell incomplete.

In the end, the Flash La Courneuve defense held strong to give the Paris team the 26-21 last second victory. Angelo Druck was named MVP of the game and the Flash were etched in the history books after one of the most exciting CEFL Bowl finishes.

Noah Costantino is a student and football player at Baldwin Wallace University in Cleveland, Ohio. Fueled by his love for the game he looks to continue his knowledge of football at an international level. He is majoring in Communications with a