LIVESTREAM French semifinal: Thonon Black Panthers @ Marseille Blue Stars, June 25, 19:00 CET (7 pm, 1 pm ET)

The Thonon-les-bains Black Panthers will travel to Marseille Saturday, June 25 for a highly anticipated showdown with the Blue Stars.

These teams are two of the top teams in the French D1 Elite Championship league with the Blue Stars having completed a perfect 10-0 regular season to finish first in Conference B, and the Black Panthers winding up with a record of 9-1 to end the season in second place in Conference A. Now, they will face off for the first time this year with a spot in the championship game on the line.

After losing to the La Courneuve Flash 35-0 in the opening week of the season back in February, the Black Panthers won nine straight games to close the season in Conference A, including a 38-21 win over the Flash in week 10. Last week, the team hosted a wild card matchup against the Toulouse Ours, the third-place finisher in Conference B, and it ended in a resounding 41-0 victory. They are quarterbacked by Brett Hunchak, a Canadian who is in his first season in France. After finding his footing over the first couple of weeks of the season, Hunchak has been red-hot for the past couple of months. He finished the year with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 24-0, a remarkable accomplishment. Hunchak likes to spread the ball around to multiple targets from the pocket, as the team lacks a standout receiver, at least statistically. Running back Nicolas Khandar is a force in the ground game, ranking fourth in the league in rushing yards with 585, while Akiva Wedge is another good back, ranking 10th in the league with 373 rushing yards. With a well-rounded offense and defense, Thonon has been a machine as of late, but they will have a big test ahead of them this week.

Thonon QB Brett Hunchak

Thonon Black Panthers @ Marseille Blue Stars, June 25, 19:00 CET (7 pm, 1 pm ET)

The only team in France to finish the season undefeated, the Marseille Blue Stars got to rest last week after securing a first-round bye. The Blue Stars were utterly unstoppable all season long, outscoring their opponents by an average score of roughly 44-6 each week. However, their conference was probably weaker than Thonon’s conference, as Marseille is the only team from Conference B left standing among the final four teams.

Marseille QB Kaleb Scott Photo: JoRamon-Pix

Quarterback Kaleb Scott leads the way for the offense. Another Canadian product, Scott finished 4th in the league in passing yards with 2,292 and second in the league in touchdown passes with 32. The Blue Stars have a plethora of effective receivers, with four players ranking in the top 20 in the league in terms of receiving yards. Florian Angelini and Anthony Armstrong are a solid running back duo, making for a balanced offense. With all the talent on offense, it is the defense, though, that drives the team, as they only allowed 10 or more points in one game in the regular season. Marseille’s defenders are all over the leaderboards in defensive categories. Eddy Abdullah leads the league with 73 tackles. Hadrien Lynda leads the league with seven interceptions (with no other player recording more than three). Five of the top 10 league leaders in sacks play for the Blue Stars, including Fayade Said, who leads the league with 16.5, 5 more than the next closest man.

As these teams have not met all season, it is hard to get a good idea of how this one will play out. The key matchup in this game will be Thonon’s offense vs the Blue Stars stout defense. If Marseille shuts down the Black Panthers, as they have done to teams all season, then it will be hard for Thonon to stay in the game.

However, that task will be easier said than done, as the Black Panthers offense will be ready to put on a show on Saturday.

Thonon Black Panthers @ Marseille Blue Stars, June 25, 19:00 CET (7 pm, 1 pm ET)

Android: Thonon Black Panthers @ Marseille Blue Stars, June 25, 19:00 CET (7 pm, 1 pm ET)

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.