As the culmination of an impressive 2023 season, CEFL Bowl XVII has pitted two French teams one against the other. Flash La Courneuve have welcomed a very well-known opponent, Thonon Black Panthers. It was the first time in the CEFL Championship that any Gallic contenders are playing the big game.
Following a heartbreaking loss in the national semifinals last week, the Flash were looking to end the season on a high note by winning the trophy on the grand stage. As the first unseeded team to place in the CEFL Bowl, the Black Panthers hoped to capture their first title this season, preceding the domestic finals next week. The scene was set for a colossal continental clash.
|Flash de La Courneuve||0||20||6||0||26||Win|
|Thonon Black Panthers||0||7||7||7||21||Loss|
After most of the first half being dominated by both teams’ defenses, the last four minutes before the break, incredibly, brought as many touchdowns.
The action started with an interception of Black Panthers’ José Tabora’s pass by Jordy Adjetey-Adjevi. That gave Léo Cremades the chance to place a 14 yard pass to Guillaume Buquet for a touchdown, 7-0.
Visitors’ woes persisted as Jack Pilkerton fumbled and Angelo Druck was the quickest to recover the ball and return it for another score, 13-0.
On the ensuing kickoff Adel Bafdile sprinted past everyone and put the first points on the board for the visiting team, 13-7.
The Flash answered with a long kickoff return by Judson Saint Louis to put the ball in the opposing territory. Cremades launched a 32 yard rocket to Sofiane Mahmoudi into the end zone for the half time score of 20-7.
Buquet was the first to score in the third period. He found the hole in the Black Panthers’ front seven and weaved through for a 26 yard rushing touchdown, 26-7.
Next drive by the visitors featured Nicolas Khandar and Pilkerton who drew ever closer to the goal line. Finally, Tabora linked up with Pierre-Yves Dayres to lower the difference to 26-14.
After the home team’s punt, Khandar snagged the ball for a 50 yard gain on a wheel route. Dayres followed suit, before Tabora connected with Pilkerton over the middle for 26-21.
The game was still open with more than 10 minutes left to play. This didn’t faze the Flash who began to milk the clock, heavily favoring rushes which got stifled.
When the Black Panthers got their next shot Tabora threw as he was sacked and Zachery Curry picked him off.
Things didn’t fare much better for the home team either, this time Buquet fumbling as he was gang tackled and the Black Panthers recovering the ball. Not being able to convert the fourth down, they turn it over to the Flash with 2:53 until the final whistle.
The home team continued going nowhere over the ground. Worse yet, their punt was blocked by Félix Durand and the visitors’ Lucas Veluire firmly secured the rock under a pile of players. Not only were the Black Panthers still alive, but only 24 yards were separating them from the win.
Tabora took off and moved the chains to the 11-yard line. His next run went for 4 yards. On the second down his pass to Pilkerton got them 5 yards away with 32 seconds to go. The 3rd and 4 pass went to Pilkerton near the pylon but fell incomplete.
Their last play off the game was designed as a pass. Tabora stood in the backfield frantically searching for his options, with offensive line holding up, but all his receivers were covered. He tried stretching his legs running to the right, drawing the secondary toward him, then quickly turning sideways. Seeing Khandar now open on the end line Tabora lobbed to him but the ball went just above the running back’s outstretched fingers as he jumped to catch it.
Queue in the celebrations! The whole stadium erupted with exultation. It was indeed a great victory for the Flash, who have written history joining the European greats as the CEFL Bowl winners. They’ve claimed the champion’s trophy and Angelo Druck was voted the MVP of the game.