The North-American connection…
Over the years, a number of North-American players and coaches have brought their skills and love of the game to Thonon-les-Bains. Indeed, since the early 1990s, the Black Panthers have yearly recruited import players to bolster their senior roster. Here is a quick at our North-American alums:
The Black Panthers hire their first-ever North American coach, former all-canadian wide receiver Patrick Gregory of Bishop’s University. Patrick is currently offensive coordinator at the Université de Montréal.
Claude Cyrenne, also from Bishop’s University, succeeds Patrick as Head Coach. Eric Guilbeault ( ) bolsters the lines.
Claude Cyrenne returns for a second season as head coach while Sébastien Moreau (Mount Allison University) anchors the linebacking crew and Sundee Jones (also of Mount Allison University) adds explosiveness to the offensive backfield.
Sundee Jones is back for a second campaign and is joined by Luc Pelland (Concordia University) who takes over the reigns as head coach. Guillaume Couture (McGill University) plays on both lines while Rob Taylor (Concordia University) plays linebacker.
Luc Pelland continues as head coach; Sundee Jones racks up over 1000 yards rushing; Stephane Gallibois (McGill Univetsity) steps in at middle linebacker.
The team’s first season in the «Casque de Diamant ». Sundee Jones returns as player-coach and walks away with the MVP award of the southern conference. Chris Dolan (Maryland University) anchors the offensive line and John Allanach (Mount Allison University) jumps in at middle linebacker.
Three new import players join the team : Martin Denault (McGill University) plays offensive line; Dana Toering (McGill University) plays quarterback; and Damon Clare (River Falls University) plays linebacker.
Eric Bolduc, from Bishop’s University takes over as head coach while Blaine Scatchard (Acadia University) wins the league MVP while quarterbacking the Panthers. Martin Bédard (Université Laval) bolsters the linebacking crew.
The club hires Ryan Dean Ruschhaupt (Cal State Fresno) as head coach. Blaine Scatchard returns as quarterback and Martin Arsenault (Ottawa University, CFL Hamilton Tiger Cats) plays offensive line.
Ryan Dean Ruschhaupt is back as head coach and is assisted by Larry Haney, also from Cal State Fresno. Damon Thomas (Wayne State University) brings his NFL-playing experience (WR, Buffalo Bills) to Thonon.
After a five-year hiatus, Sundee Jones returns as head coach. Damon Thomas and Ian Sinclair (linebacker, Mount Allison University) contribute on the field.
Sylvain Desrochers (quarterback, Bishop’s University) and Jean-François Turgeon (wide receiver, Université Laval) help the Black Panthers capture the DII title and insure a move back to DI.
Larry Legault (Bishop’s University) takes over as head coach. Sylvain Desrochers returns as quarterback and is joined by Marc Marie (WR/DB Kenyon College) and Andre Bynoe (runningback, Bishop’s University).
Larry Legault returns as head coach. Kevin Adam (Guelph University) handles the quarterbacking chores and is shouldered by Derek Belvedere (runningback, Ottawa University) and Martin Vanalderwerelt (runningback, Montreal Monarchs).
Larry Legault’s third year at the helm sees the arrival of Aaron James (Dakota Wesleyan) at quarterback and Brandon Cade (Benedictine College) at runningback. Martin Vanalderwerelt returns to play tight-end. The team finishes 9 – 1 and makes it all the way to the championship game before dropping a 21-6 decision to the Flash of La Courneuve.
Larry Legault’s fourth year at the head of the Elite team. Black Panthers sees the arrival of Mike Dvoracek (RB, Sioux Fall Universty NAIA) , Sean Pfalzer (QB – Grinnel College, DIII NCAA) and the French Dimitri Kiernan (RB, Montreal Carabins University). The team finishes 7 -1 in the French championship and participate for the fist time in the Eurobowl competition with two close defeats against Barcelona Pionners and Bergamo Lions.
For the first time in several years the quarterbacking duties were handled by an athlete entirely developed in the club’s youth program. Nineteen year-old Maxime Sprauel, who had already gathered high-level experience as quarterback of France’s junior national team, led the nation’s most explosive offense as Thonon averaged an impressive 38 points per game en route to a 7 and 3 regular season record. Imports Jason Jackson (Wingback/DB, Morgan State,) and Tory Cooper (RB/WR/DB, The Citadel) made great contributions on both sides of the football throughout the campaign. Tony LeZotte (FS, James Madison) solidified the team’s secondary as the third import during the EFAF Cup competition. The 2009 campaign saw the Black Panthers participate in an historical two championship games: the French national final in Paris and the EFAF Cup final in Prague.
Despite the retirement of several key players the 2010 squad performed brilliantly under the leadership of head coach John Allanach. Imports Jimmie Russell (QB, Bethune-Cookman) and Fred Wells (WR, Northern Michigan) were impressive throughout the season and Brandon Minch (DL/RB, Nebraska Wesleyan) solidified the defensive front during the two Eurobowl contests. Season high-lites included two wins over the Paris Flash and a remarkable come from behind 39-36 (14-33 at the half) win over the eventual French champion Amiens Spartiates.
After a year-long sabbatical to focus on his national team duties, coach Larry Legault returned to the helm of the team and would remain in place until following the 2015 season. Fred Wells (WR, Northern Michigan) returned and played sterlingly at several positions : WR, RB, CB, KR and PR. Fred was joined by Chris Bergeski (WR, Southern Connecticut State University) who also contributed in numerous capacities : Wingback, OLB and Punter. Despite a rash of injuries, the squad rebounded for a solid second half of the season, posting home wins over the Cougars, Argonautes and Dauphins while reaching the EFAF Cup semi-finals by defeating the Prague Lions and the Milan Rhinos.
Import players Baylen Laury (RB, Southeastern Oaklahoma) and Patrick Hall (RB, Gardner-Webb) contributed 2000 yards of total offense and 25 TDs ; together with Dimitri Kiernan, the trio established the Black Panthers’ offense as the most potent in France’s first division. Quarterback Max Sprauel handled virtually every snap in the course of the team’s 12 games and didn’t throw one interception – a league record. The défense improved steadily throughout the year as many newcomers gained precious game experience. An outstanding run of 9 straight wins came to an end with a heartbreaking 3 point loss to the Amiens Spartiates in the championship game (L 7-10).
After a 1-4 start, the Black Panthers fired off 12 consecutive wins on their way to two titles : France’s National Championship and the EFAF Cup. Stephen Neville (Stonehill College) was outstanding on both sides of the ball (CB and WB) and on special teams as well (PR & KR). Alex Thomas (RB, Yale) overcame some early season injuries to become a dominant force on the offensive side of the ball; often providing a big touchdown run when the team most needed it. Jamarius Robinson (North Greenville University) stepped in as the third import player during the EFAF Cup games and managed two interceptions in just a handful of games at the Strong Safety position. Once again, the Black Panthers’ offense finished first in offensive production, averaging 27 points per game over the 10 game schedule.
The Black Panthers completed their first undefeated season in D1, positing a 7-0-1 record in the French championship. After a resounding 38-0 win at home in the national semi-finals, the team successfully repeated as national champions with a nail-biting 35-34 victory over the Asnières Molosses in Paris. Imports Thomas Addison (RB, Shepherd University) and Marcus Bratton (CB, Virginia Wise) made solid contributions to the team’s efforts.
The 2015 season promised to be a challenging one after the departure (retirement) of 13 starters from the 2014 edition. A young and mostly inexperienced squad struggled with inconsistent play throughout the season but progressed well enough to capture a berth in the championship game for the fourth consecutive year. The team also qualified for the Champions’ League Final Four with victories over the Milano Seamen and l’Hospitalet Pioners. For the first time since 2010, the quarterbacking duties were handled by an import player; Billy Greene (UBC) did an outstanding job at the helm of the offense. Milton Knox Jr. (UCLA, Fresno State) contributed heavily on both sides of the ball in addition to being the team’s main returner.
Despite some brilliant flashes, the team never quite achieved a solid level of consistency, mostly due to youth and inexperience across the board. Head coach Skip Albano, along with imports Sam Poulos (quarterback) and P.J. Gremaud (linebacker) contributed admirably in challenging circumstances.
The 2017 season represents a landmark of sorts with the appointment of Fabien Ducousso (Hippo) as head coach. The former national team offensive lineman and emblematic figure in the American Football scene in France became the first home-grown head coach of the Black Panthers since their climb into first division. With import quarterback Sam Poulos back at the helm and the addition of DB/return specialist Timothy Love Breaker, the team reached the French finals before bowing to the Flash but captured its second-ever European title with a victory over the Milano Rhinos.
Despite large player turnover and an injury-plague season, the team still managed to make it all the way to the championship game before dropping a close one to the Paris Flash (14-21). The import players were Kyle Boehm (QB – California), Schnayder Termidor (LB – Ithica) and Talir Satterfield-Rowe (RB West Virginia State).
A memorable year in all accounts: the elite team went 10-0 and were crowned national champs with a convincing 24-7 victory over the St-Ouen Cougars in the championship game, while the U19 squad made it all the way to the championship game before losing.
Import QB Clark Evans (Hawaii) contributed heavily to the team’s success while Troy Porter (OL – Ottawa) anchored the offensive line.
After only three games, the season was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Season cancelled due to the pandemic.
After two seasons lost to the pandemic, the Black Panthers were back in action in 2022 ! A rough start in the season opener was followed by a string of 11 straight wins in the French championship with two of those victories coming in the playoffs. 2022 also signaled a return to European competition as the Black Panthers participated once again in the CEFL Cup. An opening win (12-6) at home in the snow against the Black Demons (Spain) was followed by a defeat at the hands of the rival Paris Flash in a contest filled with big plays which finished 27-45. These two teams square off for the fourth time in only five months in the French championship game and despite a local crowd (the game was played in Thonon) of over 3000 spectators, our heroes came out on the short end of a 16-10 nail-biter. Imports Brett Hunchak (QB – York) and Akiva Wedge (RB – South Virginia) were both major contributors to the team’s successes. Head Coach Larry Legault was back for a second stint at the helm of the team having spent the past six seasons coaching in Switzerland. »