Saturday, February 7th Elite American football is back in France.
This is part of a series of previews to learn more about the top teams of the FFFA, Fédération Française de Football Américain, and better understand the challenges of this new season. This preview comes courtesy of VoxStadium and Marion Santiago and has been translated by AFI.
Today we meet another competitor in the FFFA’s Elite Conference Sud, the Centurions de Nîmes.
Centurions de Nîmes
After a difficult but encouraging 2014, the Nimes Centurions achieved their objective: to remain in the first division. An achievement Jean-Philippe Eldin, both a player and head coach of the Team Nîmes, can be proud of.
“After winning the Division II title in 2013, the goal was to settle in the Elite league and stay there.” Because with only eight or nine competing teams (depending on the season), the competition is tough to keep one’s place among the cream of French American football. The Centurions had a bitter experience in 2010 in the club’s first season in France’s top division, and were quickly relegated after just one season. Evidence that the D2-D1 transition is not easy manage:
“Five years ago, we had a fairly young team, it was the first time we played at the highest level, so we knew not what to expect, we were inexperienced against teams like the Black Panthers, the Flash or Templiers,” says Jean-Philippe Eldin.
This experience was a lesson to Nîmes, and their second trip to the Elite had a better outcome, as the club finally managing to maintain D1 status. Can the Centurions now set their sights higher in 2015?
Holding the Line
Jean-Philippe Eldin unashamedly dreams of reaching the semi-finals of the French championship:
“Despite the differences in the budgets we have compared to other D1 teams, we organize combines in the the offseason and invested in the recruitment of foreign players, so our objectives are clear and unambiguous, we want to be in the top four.”
“At the close the 2013 season, our four key players of the offensive line had to leave the club for professional reasons, which greatly handicapped our ground game last season. Our time of possession suffered and our defense was often on the ground,” says Jean-Phillipe Eldin. This year the Centurions managed to keep most all of their linemen on both offense and defense.
“This year, there is fewer problems to solve as I almost have the same group of players as last year. Moreover, with the arrival of Lane Acheampong and Alexandre Lopes (OL, Archangel Perpignan), we have much hope to win the battle of the line of scrimmage.”
As for American imports, the Centurions de Nîmes have signed Blake Robles, a quarterback from the Eureka College (NCAA Division 3), and Benjamin Weischedel, a tight-end and linebacker, from Willamette College (NCAA Division 3).
The Centurions have signed running back Julien Senmartin (Blue Stars Marseille, D3) and Clement Verran running back from the Warriors de Avignon. Eldin; “Clement Verran is an agile runner gives us more depth at running back, which is a good thing since they are often exposed to injuries.”
“Never change a winning team”
Bavuong Souphanthavong had been head coach of the club since 2011, but has given way to Jean-Philippe Eldin during the offseason. The Nîmes management has focused on continuity: “Last year, we had more of a personnel problems than coaches. However, we must not forget that we won the D2 championship with the same coaching staff, so we do not want change a winning team.”
Speaking of winning team, the Centurions have much to do as the first day of the championship will be this Saturday at against Thonon-les-Bains Black Panthers, the two time defending champions of France.
Link to the Centurions de Nîmes profile on Europlayers.com here