France top league semifinals set to kick off

The French D1 Elite Championship playoffs continue this weekend as a pair of semifinal matchups are set to take place on Saturday, June 17. 

The Thonon Black Panthers will host the Tours Pionniers, while the La Courneuve Flash, last year’s champions, go on the road to take on the Marseille Blue Stars. 

Tours Pionniers @ Thonon Black Panthers

The Black Panthers finished the season with the league’s best record at 9-0-1, with their only imperfection being a tie against the Flash.  With an offense averaging over 40 points per game, Thonon led the league in scoring by a significant margin, while their defense ranked third in the league in points against.  They go into these playoffs likely seen as the favorite to take home the championship and will begin their quest with a relatively easy matchup.

On the other side of this matchup, the Tours Pionniers earned a semifinal berth with a 35-26 victory on the road against the Toulouse Ours on June 3rd.  Despite finishing the regular season with a mediocre record of 5-5, the Pionniers are one of the last teams standing and have a shot at reaching the championship game.  To do that, though, they would have to take down the Black Panthers, who defeated Tours 49-7 and 38-14 in two contests this season.

La Courneuve Flash @ Marseille Blue Stars

Despite having a worse record than their playoff opponent, the Marseille Blue Stars will get home field advantage on Saturday by virtue of winning Conference BMarseille finished their regular season at 8-2, which was good enough for the top spot in their conference.  The Blue Stars hosted a semifinal game last season but lost 28-27 to the Black Panthers.  They are looking to avoid a repeat of that exit and make it to the championship game for the first time in team history.

After a 8-1-1 regular season that saw them win every game against teams not named the Black Panthers, La Courneuve found themselves in the wild card round this season, which is almost unfamiliar territory for a team that has been so dominant over the last decade.  They hosted the Perpignan Grizzlys Catalans, who finished third in Conference B, and came away with a 41-31 victory last week.  The defending champions lost some talent to the Paris Musketeers of the ELF, but admirably have made it back to the postseason and are looking to repeat with a new-look squad.

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.