Israeli Football Starts With Three Routs and a Comeback

The Jerusalem Lions turned the tide against the Judean Rebels, while Tel Aviv, Ramat Hasharon and Petah Tikva won big.

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Big Blue and the Rebels facing off against each other in the IFL opener in December, 2016.
Big Blue and the Rebels facing off against each other in the IFL opener in December, 2016.Credit: Uria Loberbom

The 10th season of the Kraft Family Israel Football League got off to a resounding start with all teams in action last weekend. On Thursday night the Jerusalem Lions overcame a 12-0 deficit to beat the defending champion Judean Rebels 16-12, while on Friday the Tel Aviv Pioneers routed the Haifa Underdogs 34-12.

On Saturday night came blowouts by the visitors; the Ramat Hasharon Hammers defeated the Mazkeret Batya Silverbacks 44-6 and the Petah Tikva Troopers blanked the Be’er Sheva Black Swarm 46-0.

It was slow and ugly Thursday night in Ma’aleh Adumim as both teams suffered from turnovers and seemed to be shaking off the offseason rust.

Chesky Tomor made a juggling interception off David Abell in the second quarter, and a 33-yard return set up the first score of the season a nine-yard run by Avi Landesman. The Lions turned the ball over on downs after a long drive, and Rebels quarterback Jeff Balaban found Chaim Aaron for a jump-ball touchdown to make the score 12-0.

The Lions came roaring out of halftime with a 57-yard scoring run by Jerome Wojtalik to narrow the deficit to 12-8. Leor Markose intercepted Balaban’s pass on the next drive, but Avraham Fisgus stripped Abell of the ball and recovered the fumble himself.

The Rebels turned the ball over on downs and the Lions were forced to punt. Eliyahu ‘’Lalu’’ Loev recovered a Landesman fumble for the Lions, but Abell was picked off by Yehuda Mendlowitz after great pressure by Tomor.

Binyamin Schultz picked off Balaban’s pass right before the end of the third quarter, and Wojtalik ran in his second score of the night for a 16-12 Lions lead.

Abell completed 8 of 19 passes for 56 yards and four interceptions, while adding 27 yards on the ground. Wojtalik rushed 19 times for 117 yards and two scores, and Ezzy Jaski had three catches for 26 yards. Mordy Charnowitz led the defense with 10 tackles.

Balaban completed 13 of 37 passes for 148 yards, a score and four interceptions, while leading his team with eight rushing yards. Aaron caught four passes for 62 yards and one touchdown.

Pioneers pound Underdogs

Yuval Fenta rushed 24 times for 154 yards and two touchdowns, helping his Tel Aviv Pioneers take down the Haifa Underdogs 34-12 and remind the rest of the league why he was the 2016 offensive player of the year.

The team opened with five runs on the first drive, the last of which Fenta punched in for a 6-0 Pioneer lead. Pios quarterback Steve Markoe found a streaking Nimrod Pintel for a 64-yard touchdown later in the quarter to make it 12-0 Tel Aviv.

Haifa QB Matt Kauffman punched in a score to start the second quarter, but Markoe responded with a 34-yard strike to Cameron Simmonds to push the lead to 18-6. Guy Halberthal got great positioning on a long Markoe pass and picked it off, setting up another Kauffman touchdown with 13 seconds to go in the half, making it 18-12.

The second half, however, was all Tel Aviv, as Fenta rushed for another score and Simmonds made a beautiful play on a Markoe pass to register a 54-yard score.

Markoe completed 8 of 17 passes for 215 yards, three scores and two interceptions. Fenta rushed 24 times for 154 yards and two touchdowns. Simmonds caught four passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns. Barak Rahavi and Amit Militanu led the team with seven tackles each.

Kauffman completed 15 of 37 passes for 135 yards, adding two scores on the ground. Mica Allon led the defense with 11 tackles.

Elsewhere, the Ramat Hasharon Hammers bombed the Mazkeret Batya Silverbacks 44-6. After yielding an early score, the Hammers closed out with 37 unanswered points.

A good kickoff return by Nachi Brodt set the Hammers up for a four-yard rushing touchdown by David Weitzman, and the Silverbacks answered with a 38-yard touchdown pass from Tim Plotkin to Gal Dagan.

At the end of an 11-play drive, Jonathan Curran found Ben Landon for a 12-yard touchdown pass to start the second quarter to make it 13-6, and following a Mazkeret Batya punt, Curran passed to Brodt for a 10-yard score to make it 20-6. The Silverbacks punted again but the Hammers could not score again before the half.

Plotkin threw a pick-six to Landon to start the second half, and after a Mazkeret turnover on downs, Curran found Landon for a seven-yard touchdown pass to make it 34-6. Matis Goldmeier forced and recovered a  Dagan fumble, but Shalev Sabag picked off a Curran pass, before Twig pick-sixed Silverbacks QB Mickey Jules to make it 42-6 right before the end of the third quarter.

The ‘Backs punted to start the fourth, and Evyatar HaCohen recovered a Curran fumble. Chanina Landesman strip-sacked Plotkin on fourth down, but the Silverbacks were able to stop Ramat Hasharon on the one-yard line at the end of a 13-play, 70-yard drive. Given the tough field position, Dagan was tackled in the end-zone for a Hammers safety to make it 44-6, and Curran kneeled out the rest of the game.

Ramat Hasharon quarterback Jonathan Curran finished 14 for 23 for 138 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Landon caught eight passes for 72 yards and two scores, Mike Zinn rushed 17 times for 98 yards and David Weitzman rushed for 11 times for 74 yards and one touchdown. Michael Witman led the team with seven tackles; Twig had four and a pick-six.

For the Silverbacks, Tim Plotkin completed 5 of 11 passes for 92 yards, a score and an interception. Dagan led the team in rushing (26 yards) and receiving (38 yards and a TD). Amit Ben Yosef led all tacklers with 13 tackles.
The new-look Petah Tikva Troopers blew out the Be’er Sheva Black Swarm 46-0.

Petah Tikva’s Avrami Farkas completed 12 of 23 passes for 188 yards, a score and a pick. Danny Mikhailov led the team in rushing with 26 yards and a TD, and added six catches for 61 yards. Gideon Reiz finished with two catches for 69 yards and a score. Ahmed Abu-Gaber and Adi Badash each had five tackles to lead the Trooper defense.

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