France: Unbeaten La Courneuve Flash and Thonon Black Panthers battle to a tie

In a matchup on Saturday between probably the two best teams in the French Elite D1 league, the La Courneuve Flash and Thonon-les-bains Black Panthers battled to a 14-14 tie.

As the undeniable best teams in Conference A, the Flash and the Black Panthers faced off three times last season, including in the league championship game, which the Flash won.  Both teams came into this game undefeated at 4-0, and, weirdly, both teams left the game still without a loss.

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Photo: Anna Shnaider

The Black Panthers got the ball first and moved it down the field, but Flash defensive back Miles Corpening stripped the ball from Black Panther running back Nicolas Khandar and recovered the fumble.  La Courneuve then marched all the way down the field but were stopped near the goal line on fourth and goal.  After they got the ball back, the Flash finally opened the scoring in the second quarter with one yard rush from Francois Pion.  The Black Panthers got the ball back and quickly marched down the field, capping off their drive with a two yard rushing touchdown from Khandar.  Neither team scored for the rest of the half as they went into the break tied at 7-7.

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Photo: Anna Shnaider

At the end of the third quarter, Pion once again found the end zone with a 14-yard scamper.  The Flash took a 14-7 lead into the fourth quarter.  With 6:19 on the clock, Thonon forced a punt and got the ball on their own 35 yard line.  On the first play of the drive, quarterback Jose Tabora took a deep shot and dropped a perfect pass into the hands of fellow American Jack Pilkerton for a 48 yard gain.  Two plays later, Tabora found Khandar out of the backfield who ran in for a four yard score with less than five minutes to go.  The Flash got the ball back and drove down the field, but their 30 yard field goal was no good.  The Black Panthers then attempted their own field goal from 42 yards out, but it missed wide left with only a second left and the game came to an end.

May be an image of 3 people, people playing sports, outdoors and text that says 'THONON 5 BAINS 30'

Photo: Anna Shnaider

The story of the game was that the Flash forced five Thonon turnovers (forcing two interceptions and three fumbles) but were mostly unable to use them to their advantage.  Jose Tabora was the leading passer on the day, completing 21/30 passes for 258 yards with a touchdown and two picks.  Pilkerton was his top receiver, hauling in five passes for 48 yards.

Though the tie was disappointing for both teams, they will meet again in the last week of the regular season in La Courneuve on May 20th.  It would not be a surprise if both teams were still undefeated at that point.

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.