PREVIEW: France’s Elite FFFA Semi-Final – Thonon-les-Bains Black Panthers v. Nice Dauphins

Clubs from the South of France battle for a spot in the French Final

France’s top league, the “Championnat Elite”,  has finished it’s regular season and both semi-finals will be played this Saturday night. This is a preview to the ELITE SOUTH Semi-Final between the Thonon-les-Bains Black Panthers and Nice Dauphins.

 LIVE STREAM – Black Panthers of Thonon-les-Bains receive Dauphins de Nice. Kickoff is at 6 p.m. CET / 12 p.m. EST with LIVE STREAM:

 Thonon-les-Bains Black Panthers v. Nice Dauphins

Nice will travel to the French Alps for the semi-final. Thonon has been the team on the rise in the league for many years. But it took them four trips to the championship game to finally get their first ring last season. The Black Panthers are still undefeated this season (only a tie game in Paris against the Flash) and still playing on two fronts since they also qualified for the IFAF Champions League Final Four.

It is a physical, old school, no-nonsense football team. On the national team, Head Coach Larry Legault uses a spread passing offense, but with the Black Panthers he runs his famous Wing-T (36 pts per game).

It is not always fun to watch (only around 5 pass attempts every game), football fans and opponents hate it, but it works for them. It fits their mentality and their personnel.

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Their big OL will wear you down for four quarters. Physical national team RB #24 Stéphane Yepmo will punish you inside. Yepmo has been the best player in the country the last two seasons. American RB #27 Thomas Addison (Sheperd University) is back from injury and will also carry the load. QB #13 Maxime Sprauel will catch you off guard and make you pay on play action passes.

The defense is anchored by the “oldies”: DL #5 Christophe Sirouet, #52 Baptiste Noir and DB#4 Franck Galvin. American DB #19 Marcus Bratton (Virginia Wise University) is healthy again. It is a unit who plays well together even if they lack true talent.

Even if the Dauphins only made the playoffs thanks to the “Templiers-gate”, this is a good football team. They reached the semi-finals last two seasons and have a good youth program. They finished the regular season at 5-3 with four straight wins. So it is a dangerous team with some momentum. American Head Coach Dick Bergstrom brings more than 40 years of coaching experience and will get his players ready for a potential big upset on the road.

Mid-season arrival of American QB #8 T.J. Pryor (Eastern Kentucky University) has brought excitement to their spread offense. The dual-threat QB can really hurt you with his speed and improvisation skills. Watch out for WR #4 Tristan Baldini, WR #85 Willem Silverio and RB #19 Serge Bly at the skills positions. American Jason Tillery (Marist College) plays on both sides of  the line.

T.J. Pryor

The defensive unit is solid with three players on the national team : LB #5 Julien Zuppardi, DB #25 Arnaud Vidaller and CB #6 Kevin Yuan. They will have to be very physical upfront to stop Thonon´s running game machine.

The first game between the two teams was at the beginning of the season, and it was a thriller, with the Black Panthers winning in Nice 33-25.

Edge: BLACK PANTHERS. But they better find a way to contain that Dauphins QB. The Dauphins have been hot and have nothing to lose.

Vincent Lelard is a Frenchman and former Head Coach of La Courneuve Flash (France) and Offensive Coordinator of the Vienna Vikings (Austria). He has been involved in American Football in Europe for almost 25 years. Today he lives in Vienna and