The Geneva Seahawks head into their second straight Swiss Bowl this weekend where they will face the defending champion Calanda Broncos and it will mark head coach Larry Legault’s second final since taking over in late 2015.
The two teams met in last year’s final with Calanda coming out with a 44-12 victory.
Geneva has defeated the Broncos 14-12 in one of the two meetings between the two this year and lost 30-20 in the second outing.
Legault is no stranger to championship football. In addition to guiding Geneva to the Swiss final these past two years, as head coach of the Thonon Black Panthers in France, he took his team to the Casque de Diamant six times, winning the French title twice, in 2013 and 2014.
AFI: This is your second consecutive Swiss Bowl with Geneva. You lost last year’s game but enter this year with a regular season win over the Broncos. How do you feel going into this game?
Legault: As a coach, you just try to prepare your team as best you can and get them to play their best football on game day. Yes, we did get a win in week one but that’s long forgotten – it won’t help us tomorrow!
AFI: You have guided Geneva from Division 2 in Switzerland and up to the top echelons of the game in just four years after establishing a culture of winning with the Thonon Black Panthers in France. Is there a blueprint for this success?
Legault: I don’t know, but I do know that coaching is just a small part of it. You look at all the successful clubs in Europe over the long haul and they all have solid structures. One of the biggest problems here (Europe) has been, for the lack of a better expression, institutional incompetence – whether it be at a national (federation) level or at a club (administration) level. I’ve seen many clubs over the years with everything in place for success only to have it ruined by a lack of leadership. The Thonon Black Panthers have both consistency and competence at the head of the organization; the club’s success is no surprise. We’re at the beginning with the Seahawks; it’s very promising but we still have a lot of work to do.
AFI: You will be facing a Calanda team with arguably the best offensive line in the country and an excellent quarterback in Conner Manning. He has a number of weapons including Adrian Sünderhauf, Lukas Lütscher and Tino Muggwyler. How does you defense match up?
Legault: I may not have seen every European team play, but I would say without a doubt that Calanda has one of the very best offenses. They’re very consistent and they rarely make mistakes. The most impressive thing to me is the quality of their play even when some of the main pieces are different. Geoff (Buffum) has put a solid system in place. There is enough balance to be able to attack an opponent’s weakness through different means and he gets the best out of everyone at his disposal. There is no question that our guys understand that they will have to be at their very best tomorrow.
AFI: You have one of the better corners in the league in Wilson Idemudia. How will you best utilize him?
Legault: Wilson’s arrival this year has definitely helped our defensive unit. We already had Chris Noah at the other CB spot so this year we have better balance. They’ll both contribute on kick-off returns in addition to their duties as defensive backs.
AFI: Your quarterback Kyle Graves is perhaps the most efficient in the league. He has thrown for 1,576 yards and 22 TDs this year against only four interceptions. What will he need to do against the second-best defense?
Legault: Consistency is a good starting point. Not forcing things. Playing within himself. Kyle is not a kid; he understands the game very well in addition to the specific role that he plays within our offense.
AFI: Running back Morgan Nkule is rated highly but facing a big, physical front seven, will you find other ways to get him the ball?
Legault: Morgan has stepped up his game in a big way this year. He’s invested much more in his preparation and it has paid dividends in his play. The single back in a spread offense is a central position but, as in every case, it’s not just about a circle on a diagram but about the athlete on the field. Morgan’s maturity has allowed him to have a greater impact for us this year, not because of tactical choices but because of the improvements that he’s brought to the table in terms of physical play and mental awareness.
AFI: Does Calanda’s success internationally this year give your players any added incentive?
Legault: I don’t think so – nobody (at least I hope not!) in Switzerland needs to be reminded that Calanda plays good football, we know who they are! I would even say that their run in the CEFL was no surprise to us and that it was very positive for football in Switzerland as a whole.
The 2019 Swiss Bowl takes place Sautrday, July 13 in Chur, Switzerland.