On Saturday, February 7th Elite American football kicked off in France.
This is part of a series of previews to learn more about the top teams of the FFFA, the 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.
When the French Football Championship Elite opened its season the Dauphins de Nice suffered an opening game home loss to the Argonauts of Aix-en-Provence, 49-7.
Semi-finalists for the last three seasons for the Casque de Diamant, the Dauphins are regarded as a formidable challenger for the Elite title. However, they never seem to be able to punch their ticket to play in a final, as evidenced by their last defeat final (38-0), at the hands of eventual champions, the Thonon-les-Bains Black Panthers.
In their defense, Nice has consistently had to face the Black Panthers in the semifinals. Nice club president Jean-Luc Donivar, does not use this as an excuse for the lackluster performance of his team:
“Last year, we lacked rigor throughout the season, many players were missing workouts. So once we were in the semifinals, we were unable to go further.”
The end of a cycle
“In the offseason, many former players retired, so I ended up with a roster made up almost entirely of rookies. It may be very complicated for us this season.”
In their misfortune, the Dauphins can rely on players from the junior team. According to the Nice president this is a mixed blessing.
“This year, a lot of juniors will be able to evolve in the senior group because of the new rules of the federation, but in the end they are young people who lose a year of training.”
To keep the boat afloat, the Dauphins have staked everything on the recruitment of three new American imports. Starting with the arrival of Conor McNeill to be head coach and lead the staff. It will be McNeill’s second season with the Dauphins. Last year he was not head coach but a player during his first stay in the French Riviera. The former offensive lineman will be joined this year by Yannick Fattorini, a former defensive back on the team, who has now joined the coaching staff of the Nice club.
Americans to the rescue
On the field, the Dauphins welcome two new American players in their ranks. The first is Colby Davies. He is 28 and he can play safety, outside linebacker or wide receiver. Davies attended Pacific Lutheran University (NCAA D3) between 2008 and 2010. He has recorded has more than 150 tackles in his career and will be an experienced reinforcement to the Nicoise defense. A second defensive player, Kevin Danser, from Stanford University (NCAA D1), will join Davies. After graduation, Danser went to camp with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans. He did made it all the way through preseason but no further; his qualities, skill, and imposing size (1m 97, 122kg) will be valuable for the Dauphins.
These two players will be fundamental to the smooth running of the team says Donivar, President of Nice who remains very cautious about the athletic goals of his team.
“These imports will allow us to keep the house intact. After that, we are in a transition year, so we will focus on maintaining, it will be not bad.”
Although setting a more conservative goal then previous seasons, the Dauphins are still looking for a more realistic finish given the state of the team and competition they will face. Even if Nice can manage to return to the South Conference championship, which is deemed weaker than that of the North (Flash, Molosses, Cougars, Templars), it will be hard to overcome the Black Panthers, the two-time defending champions. The Dauphins will also have to face a very ambitious Centurions de Nîmes and highly motivated Aix-en-Provence Argonautes.
Up next for the Dauphins are the South champions the Thonon-les-Bains Black Panthers in Thonon. The game will be streamed live. Return to AFI for the stream link and video.