The Haifa Underdogs defeated the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Sabres for the first time in five years last Friday, though the cold weather in Kiryat Yam led to a sloppy 24-14 game marked by costly drops and six turnovers.
The Sabres got on the board first as Adi Hakami found Travis Mascitelli for an eight-yard touchdown pass, but after Saud Kassas’ kick went out of bounds, Underdogs rookie running back Nirran Hevron took a pitch 35 yards to the house just eight seconds later. Haifa missed the conversion (they missed all four on the day), which left the Sabres ahead 8-6.
The ensuing kickoff pinned the Sabres deep in their own territory and Hakami coughed up the ball to Haifa’s Niv Medlinger, giving the Dogs the ball on the Sabres’ five. But after two one-yard rushes, Haifa quarterback Matt Kauffman was picked off by Mascitelli.
Hakami returned the favor by throwing a pick to Mica Allon on the very next play, taking the ball down to the Sabres’ two. Hakami had a rough day, going 4-for-15 with three interceptions, two of them by Allon. Haifa capitalized on the next play. Hevron scored his second touchdown of the day to put the hosts ahead for good with one second left in the first quarter.
The teams exchanged punts and turnovers-on-downs before Kauffman found Moshe Genon for a 16-yard strike with eight minutes to go in the half. A strange call by the Sabres had them going for it on fourth down from their own 15, and the pass fell incomplete, setting up Haifa for a quick score by Harrison Duke-Fearnley.
The Sabres drove the field, trying to narrow the gap before halftime, but Mascitelli dropped a perfect pass by Hakami, who had done his usual magic act of keeping the play alive until his receivers got open. The half ended with the Underdogs ahead 24-8.
The second half started with a Sabres onside kick that didn’t even go a yard. Haifa then had a first and goal from the 10 but couldn’t convert the golden opportunity. The teams later exchanged punts before Hakami took in a keeper to narrow Haifa’s lead to 24-14, but the Sabres couldn’t complete the conversion that would have made it a one-possession game.
The Sabres defense forced a punt with just under five minutes remaining, but Misha Holodovksy picked off a wobbly duck thrown by Hakami. Haifa drove the field trying to ice the game, but Duke-Fearnley fumbled and Mascitelli recovered for the Sabres with 1:36 to play. The game ended when Hakami was picked off again by Allon.
Neither offense did much; the teams combined for under 200 yards of offense. Hevron lead the Dogs with nine carries for 32 yards and two touchdowns, while Mascitelli was the man for the Sabres with three catches for 35 yards and a touchdown.
Haifa’s defense was led by Yuval Fisher’s nine tackles and Allon’s three tackles, two interceptions and two break-ups. Mohamed Yatim led the Sabres defenders with seven tackles, while Mascitelli chipped in with three tackles, one interception and one fumble recovery.