French rivals La Courneuve Flash and Thonon Black Panthers advance to CEFL Championship Game

The Central European Football League championship game is set, and it will be two long-time French rivals facing off as the La Courneuve Flash and Thonon Black Panthers both won their semifinal matchups this past weekend.

Thonon was faced with a seemingly tough matchup against the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns, the team that has won the last two CEFL championships.  However, with many key players and coaches having departed the Unicorns‘ organization for the European League of Football, the home team looked like a shell of their former selves. 

The visiting Black Panthers jumped out to a 14-0 lead by the end of the first quarter, and then quickly expanded that league to 28-0 in the second.  The Unicorns would respond with a pair of touchdowns before halftime, but the Black Panthers would not let them get any closer.  After a scoreless third quarter, the visitors sealed the deal by adding a pair of touchdowns in the final frame to make the score 42-14. 

Thonon thoroughly dominated the defending champions, outgaining them in yardage by a measure of 548-228.  The stars of the day were running back Nicolas Khandafive, who had 5 rushing touchdowns, and Adel Bafdile, who recorded three interceptions.

While the Black Panthers coasted to a victory in their matchup, the Flash’s game was much more hard-fought.  They hosted the Parma Panthers of the Italian Football League, and the two proved to be worthy opponents.  A balanced first half saw the teams go into the break tied up at 14-14.  Each team would add another touchdown, but the Flash were trailing by one point late in the game as the extra point attempt on their previous score had failed.  Quarterback Leo Cremades led his team down the field and linked up with receiver Francois Bremond in the end zone for the second time to give his team the late lead.  The defense kept the Panthers out of the end zone in the final minute to clinch the victory.

Prior to this year, no French team had ever reached the finals of the CEFL tournament, but this year will have a pair of squads from France meeting in the final.  The Flash and the Black Panthers are extremely familiar with each other, as they have been two of the best teams in the French domestic league for quite some time.  They have already played each other twice in 2023 in regular season play.  The first game, which took place on March 18th, saw a 14-14 tie, which showed that the teams were virtually even in caliber.  However, on May 20th, the Black Panthers traveled to La Courneuve and took down the Flash by a score of 21-14, clinching the regular season title in doing so.

The championship game will take place on June 24, and fans across France and Europe can expect an intense battle between these two foes.

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.