The Marseille Blue Stars have lost only one game in 2019, a 20-18 nail biter to the Thonon Black Panthers, and sit second in the South Conference of the French Federation of American Football Elite league with an excellent chance of making the playoffs.
The Blue Stars’ form over the last three games has been outstanding. The offense has put up 108 points in that span, but the defense has been performing at a high level, and only conceded three points in total in those three games. They gave up three points in beating the Aix en Provence Argonautes 36-3 but earned shutouts against both the Grenoble Centaures (24-0) and Villeurbane Falcons (48-0).
One of the key factors is Marseille’s pass rush. The defense has recorded a total of 20 sacks so far this season, six of them against the Black Panthers. Bavuong Souphanthavong is both head coach and defensive coordinator for the Blue Stars and he is also satisfied with the performance of the team. However, he thinks the defense still needs to improve.
American Football International: So far this season, not just the offense but the defense is doing quite well. How do you rate the performance of your defense after only conceding a field goal in the last three games?
Bavuong Souphanthavong: As a defense, we wanted to redeem ourselves after conceding 28 points against the Hurricanes, although 14 points was when the game was out of reach. The last three games we did play good defense against opponents who did not give up the game for 4 quarters and that is what we need to do also.
AFI: What is the reason behind the defense’s good performance in your opinion?
B.S.: All the credit goes to my players. We worked on a new system this offseason to fill the gap due to the departure of the four international defensive linesmen. We had to improve as a unit from starter till back-up who are involved in all games. From the numbers point of view, we did play great defense in our red zone and we are better in takeaways while we maintained our numbers of sacks.
AFI: Where do you think the defense can improve? Or does it need to improve?
B.S.: Of course, we always have to improve, that is a process that never stops. I think as a unit we need to me more consistent on every down, and work harder as the season goes by. We are still a very young team but the work is in progress!
AFI: In your opinion, which game was the best for the defense this season so far and why?
B.S.: Honestly, although we conceded 20 points and we lost that game, I would say the Thonon game. I loved the energy and the enthusiasm we showed in that game. The Black Panthers are one of the best teams in Europe for years, so this game illustrated that we can compete against a top team.
AFI: What is the team capable of reaching this season, what are the main goals?
B.S.: This team is capable of anything in a good way. Or a bad way, if we will be cocky or selfish. As I said, the group is still young and the work is still in progress. Our short distance goal is to perform good against Thonon in their own Stadium. At that point, we will see where we will stand for the rest of the season.
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