Thonon Black Panthers capture opening game of CEFL, edge Las Rozas Black Demons

This past weekend, the Thonon Black Panthers, defending French champions, faced off against Spain’s LG OLED Las Rozas Black Demons in the first game of the 2022 Central European Football League Championship season.

This is the third time that the Black Panthers have competed in the CEFL while Las Rozas was making their first appearance. Thonon finished with a win and a loss in 2019 but in 2020 saw the CEFL tournament cancelled due to the pandemic.

The game started slowly for the Spanish squad as they were unable to move the ball and were forced to punt.

The Black Panthers offense was much more potent. Quarterback Brett Hunchak was able to find his receivers with relative ease and running back Akiva Wedge forced defenders to respect the run and stay in the box. They got within field goal range, but the kick sailed wide left of the post, leaving both teams without a score.

Thonon offense in snow Photo: Pascal Carrano

After forcing another punt, the Black Panthers then marched from their own 41 down to the Las Rozas 29 yard line only to watch as two consecutive penalties pushed them back to 2nd and 25 from their own 42. Hunchak went back to work, marching them down to the Black Demons five-yard line before hitting Félix Durand for a touchdown for a 6-0 Thonon lead early in the second quarter.

Although the offense seemed to be able to move the ball, the defense was the strongest part of their game. They forced another punt, again stopping the Black Demons from finding any sort of rhythm.

On their next Thonon possession, however, a miscommunication on the snap sent the ball 12 yards behind the line, forcing Hunchak to absorb the sack.

Still, the Black Panthers began to move the ball again with Wedge finding a gap and racing 60 yards down inside the Las Rozas red zone. Then, on a fourth and goal from the five yard line, it was Wedge’s turn again and he made no mistake, pounding the ball in with seconds remaining in the first half to extend the lead to 12-0.

The Black Panthers’ offense finally ran into issues in the beginning of the second half, when running back Nicolas Khandar was stripped by linebacker Jorge Felix Velasco Velo, and the Black Demons came up with the ball.

Photo: Pascal Carrano

The Black Demons offense was unable to capitalize though and had to punt away. In fact, both teams struggled to move the ball leaving the score at 12-0 until late in the fourth quarter when the Las Rozas offense found some momentum.

Starting from their own 30-yard line, the Black Demons marched down to the Thonon five yard line and then running back Voumbo-Yalo slipped into the end zone with two minutes left to reduce the lead to 12-6.

That was as close as they got though, and Thonon came away with the 12-6 win. They now move on to play the winner of the Badalona DracsFlash de La Courneuve game scheduled for April 23.