Israel Football League: Lions Clinch First as Pioneers Eliminate Underdogs

The Judean Rebels' overtime win was a preview of their scheduled quarterfinal matchup against Ramat Hasharon.

The Rebels’ Chaim Aaron diving for the tying TD.
The Rebels’ Chaim Aaron diving for the tying TD. Dotan Doron

The regular season of the Kraft Family Israel Football League came down to the wire as the Rebels eked out a 42-36 overtime victory over Ramat Hasharon, the Jerusalem Lions clinched first place after mauling Mazkeret Batya 62-6 and Tel Aviv eliminated the Underdogs 40-26.

Also, Petah Tikva shut out Be’er Sheva 36-0.

The Judean Rebels’ overtime win was a preview of their scheduled quarterfinal matchup against Ramat Hasharon, which finished last night after press time.

The game was tied twice in the first half, as the Hammers opened the scoring with a long QB keeper by Jonathan Curran, only to be followed by a QB run by Jeff Balaban, and the Hammers’ Adam Kima answered a 61-yard catch-and-run from Balaban to David Salem with a rushing touchdown.

The Hammers took a 28-14 lead on another run by Curran and a TD pass from Curran to Nachi Brodt. The Rebels countered with a Chaim Aaron TD run, but Curran threw another TD to Brodt on the first play of the fourth quarter to make it 36-20.

Then the Rebels rallied back. First Aaron threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Balaban. Then, with just under five minutes to play, David Shatz picked off another Curran pass, and Balaban ran in a touchdown as time expired, with Aaron diving in for the tying conversion.

With the Rebels going on offense first in overtime, Aaron threw a touchdown pass to Balaban and the Rebels missed the conversion. The Hammers offense then took the field. Facing 4th-and-1, Curran threw a pass to TE Ido Eisikovits but Aaron broke up the pass, giving the Judeans the win.

Balaban completed 5/13 for 101 yards, a TD and a pick, as well as 29 yards and two rushing scores and 44 yards and two TDs receiving. Aaron completed 7/9 passes for 87 yards, two TDs and a pick, as well as 20 yards and a TD rushing, and four tackles.

Curran completed 13/21 passes for 110 yards, two scores and two picks, as well as 82 yards and two scores on the ground in the loss.

Lions lock it up

Jerusalem reeled off the first 32 points of its 62-6 finale against the Mazkeret Batya Silverbacks to clinch the regular season title and earn a bye for the quarterfinal weekend as the top seed.

David Abell started the scoring with a touchdown pass to Misha Belov, 8-0. A bad snap on a Mazkeret punt attempt set up a quick Abell-to-Belov touchdown (16-0) to start the second quarter. Abell ran in a keeper with two minutes to play in the half, while Ezzy Jaski took over the reins at quarterback in the second half and ran one in to make it 32-0.

The Silverbacks got on the board with a 53-yard Gal Dagan run for their lone score.

The Lions followed with rushing scores by Eli Gurwitz and Jaski, a 51-yard interception return by Abell, and another run by Belov.

Abell completed 9/17 passes for 116 yards and two scores, adding 53 yards and a TD on the ground, as well as two tackles and a pick-6. Jaski caught for 71 yards, passed for 31 and ran for 73 and two TDs. Belov had 7-76-2 receiving and 23 yards and a TD rushing. The Lions’ Leib Sklar had nine tackles.

No underdogs

The Underdogs came into its game against Tel Aviv needing a win or a loss by 10 points or less to make the playoffs. They kept the game close the entire way but came up four points short.

The Pioneers went up 14-0 on a short TD pass from QB Steve Markoe to Nimrod Pintel and a scoring run by Yuval Fenta. Haifa answered with a 43-yard TD run by Hillel Meran, but Fenta ran in another TD for a 20-7 lead.

Haifa QB Matt Kauffman then threw a touchdown pass to TE Amitai Chubinski, only to see Markoe throw a TD pass to Nadav Navon and a 26-14 lead. Haifa pulled within 26-20 before the half on a scoring pass from Kauffman to Tomer Friedler. However, Markoe threw a TD pass to former Underdogs TE Amit Kolton, 32-20 at the beginning of the third quarter.

Kauffman threw a touchdown to Matan Fourier, making it 32-26 in the fourth quarter, but Markoe scored on a keeper with 1:41 to end Haifa’s season.

Markoe completed 19/36 passes for 210 yards, three scores, two interceptions and a rushing TD. Fenta rushed 10 times for 125 yards and two scores, while Navon caught 2-67-1. Militanu led the defense with nine tackles.

Kauffman completed 13/34 passes for 144 yards, three TDs and a pick. Chubinski caught 4-61-1 and Meran rushed 24 times for 131 yards and a score. Fourier led the defense with eight tackles.

In Petah Tikva’s 36-0 shutout of the Black Swarm, Avrami Farkas completed 12/23 passes for 206 yards, three TDs and a pick, as he set the new IFL single-season passing record with 2,023 yards. Dani Eastman rushed for 8-79-1 and caught 3-51-1, adding four tackles. Gideon Reiz caught 5-85-2. Luke Hutkin posted 10 tackles and 1.5 sacks, leading the defense once again.