Thonon Black Panthers defeat Marseille Blue Stars to win French title

The Thonon Black Panthers won the 27th Casque de Diamant by defeating the Marseille Blue Stars 35-18 in the French D1 Elite championship game on Saturday.

Playing with homefield advantage, the Black Panthers got off to a hot start and never looked back.  Wide receiver Jack Pilkerton opened the scoring with a touchdown reception, before running back Nicolas Khandar scampered for a 35 yard touchdown run to make the score 14-0.  After the Blue Stars botched a punt attempt on the next possession, Thonon immediately struck with a touchdown pass from quarterback Jose Tabora to receiver Felix Durand to make the score 21-0 in the last minute of the first quarter.  Marseille would score a touchdown in the second quarter, but Thonon still was in control of the game at halftime as they led 21-6.

Thonon QB Jose Tabora Photo: Antoine Buche

Tabora scored a touchdown with his legs to open the third quarter, extending the lead to 28-6.  Marseille responded with a touchdown to narrow the lead to 28-12 but the Black Panthers got a touchdown from Liam Ward to put the game all but out of reach late in the third quarter.  The Blue Stars would score one more time in the final frame, but that was all they could manage as the final score came to be 35-18.

The Black Panthers outplayed the visitors from start to finish, and there is no doubt that they deserved to be named champions.  Tabora was named the game’s MVP after contributing three touchdowns through the air and one on the ground.  After losing in the CEFL finals last weekend to their rivals, the La Courneuve Flash, this win surely had to have felt great for all the Thonon players and coaches.  

Photo: Antoine Buche

This title is the Black Panthers’ fourth in team history, all of which have come in the last 10 years.  While Marseille came up short, they can take pride in reaching the championship game for the first time in team history.  Congratulations to the Blue Stars on a great season, and congratulations to the Black Panthers on winning the championship!

A current student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Carter played football in high school and has been a lifelong avid football fan.