New team, same champion: Swiss Bowl champ Clark Evans leads the Bern Grizzlies into title game

For the first time since 2016, the Bern Grizzlies are back in the Swiss Bowl after defeating the Geneva Seahawks in a thrilling semifinal last weekend.

Despite their five-year absence from the title game, Swiss football fans will see a familiar face leading the Grizzlies onto the field. Two-time Swiss Bowl champion Clark Evans has carried his new team back to the title game in his impressive return to Swiss football.

His opponent this weekend is the Calanda Broncos, the winners of four out of the last five championships. The Broncos have had been dominating the Swiss football scene for more than a decade, making 12 straight title game appearances. While head coach Geoff Buffum, strong management, and experienced players have played their roles in that success, quarterback Clark Evans was also a key part of the powerhouse program. Evans helped the Broncos win the Swiss Bowl in 2017 and 2018. This Saturday, he’ll be lining up across from his old team looking to dethrone a Swiss football empire he helped build.

Evans commented on facing his former squad:

“It’s a great feeling, I have the utmost respect for coach Buffum and the entire Broncos organization. They are a great football team that plays hard, smart and fast. Playing against Great teams is what we look forward to. You have to be at the top of your game when you play against the Broncos. It is going to take a great effort on our part to knock off the Champs.”

2018 Swiss Bowl MVP Clark Evans as a member of the Calanda Broncos Photo Sergio Brunetti

After a perfect 2018 season with the Broncos, Evans took his talents to nearby ThononLesBains suiting up for the French powerhouse Black Panthers. There, he won yet another national title in 2019. However, as all football fans know, over the last year and a half, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the sports scene hard. France was no exception. After five games in 2020, the French Federation canceled the season leaving the defending champions and Evans in football limbo.

Evans with the Thonon Black Panthers Photo: Aixelane

Despite the adversity, Evans and his teammates with the Black Panthers stayed resilient and prepared for 2021. However, that season would never come as the typical late January kick-off of the French league came at a time when COVID-19 cases were rising across the country. The federation was forced to cancel the season for the second year in a row, leaving the veteran quarterback without a season once again.

That is until the nearby Bern Grizzlies seized the opportunity, offering Evans a chance to return to Swiss football and play a mere two hours from his home. The match seemed to be made in heaven as Evans had been living near Thonon-Les-Baines year-round and Bern needed a quarterback with championship experience after falling just short of the championship game for years. For Evans, joining the Grizzlies felt like a homecoming:

“It’s great to be able to play in Switzerland again. Now that I live here and coach for the National team, it gives me even more incentive to grow my own Brand here in Switzerland.

Photo Jens Lens

Evans’s leadership and championship experience have been a game-changer for Bern as they quickly jumped back to being one of Switzerland’s best teams. On the field, the 6’4″, 240-pound quarterback’s accuracy, anticipation, and physical running style make this Bern team a tough one to defend against.  Off the field, Evan’s veteran leadership and coaching have been catalysts for the rapid growth of a Grizzlies team making strides week in and week out. The bearded passer’s knowledge became even more vital as the Grizzlies head coach departed shortly before the season leaving the 2018 Swiss Bowl MVP with more coaching duties. The trials and adversity have only made the bond between Bern teammates stronger according to Evans:

“The most rewarding part has been watching our team come together throughout the season. Seeing our guys buy into the program and get better each and every week. Our season started when our then head coach took a job for a Div. 1 school a month before the season and we were able to rally together as a team and keep pushing forward. Very proud of this group.”

Photo Jens Lens

This will be the third time Evans faces his former team this year, as the Grizzlies and Broncos split their regular-season series with both teams winning at home. The title contenders enter the championship game with 8-1 records with their only losses of the season coming to each other. The Broncos will be looking to win their fifth consecutive Swiss Bowl, while the Grizzlies aim to claim their first title since 2015. Evans believes turnovers will be the key to upsetting the Broncos on Saturday.

“We have to limit mistakes, in the second game against the Broncos we had far too many turnovers. We need to play confident and fast, let loose and have fun.”

Alex is a former professional American football player who is now studying in London. His goal writing for AFI is to stay involved with the game that has given him so much. Alex enjoys covering leagues and players and sharing different football