Israel Football League / Judean Rebels Clinch Top Spot in Playoffs

Jerusalem Lions, Tel Aviv Pioneers and Haifa Underdogs occupy next three spots.

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Action from the game between Ramat Hasharon Hammers and Mazkeret Batya Silverbacks
Crunch time in the game between Ramat Hasharon Hammers and Mazkeret Batya Silverbacks on March 17, 2016. The Hammers triumphed 46-17. Credit: Dotan Doron
Betzalel Friedman

It went down to the final game of the 2015-2016 Kraft Family Israel Football League season to set the playoff seeds, as the Judean Rebels clinched top spot for the third straight season after defeating the Tel Aviv Pioneers.

Last Thursday night in Ramat Hasharon, the host Hammers clinched the #5 seed while sending Mazkeret Batya Silverbacks home. In Kiryat Yam last Friday, the Jerusalem ‘Big Blue’ Lions clinched the #2 seed with an all-around victory over the Haifa Underdogs.

The Pioneers will be seeded third, while the Underdogs are #4 and Be’er Sheva Black Swarm will be the sixth seed.

In the wild card round next week, the third-seeded Pioneers will host the sixth-seeded Black Swarm, and the fourth-seeded Underdogs will host the fifth-seeded Hammers.

In the semifinals next week, the top-seeded Rebels will host the lowest remaining seed, while the second-seeded Lions will host the highest remaining seed after the wild card weekend to be completed this weekend.

In the Rebels-Pioneers game, as well as the Haifa-Jerusalem game, the winner would earn a bye week and home-field advantage in the semifinals.

In the Rebels-Pioneers match, the lead switched twice in the final minute of the first half. The Rebels scored first on a pass from Chaim Schiff to Gideon Reiz, but Ronny Moscona found Daniel Ben Zvi in the end-zone to put the Pioneers ahead 8-6 with 31 seconds to play in the half. However, it took the Rebels exactly two plays and 22 seconds to go 62 yards and score, after a 26-yard run by Dani Eastman and a 36-yard TD pass from Eastman to Chaim Aaron for a 14-8 halftime lead.

In the third quarter, it took the Rebels three plays to go 50 yards and score on a pass from Eastman to tight end Cole Kaiser (22-8). But the Pioneers answered right back with a 39-yard touchdown pass from Moscona to Nimrod Pintel, making it 22-16. However, the Rebels put the game away as Eastman connected again with Aaron for a five-yard touchdown, and intercepted a Moscona pass before finding Reiz in the end-zone for a three-yard score, 38-16.

Schiff was 9/20 for 121 yards, a TD and two picks before leaving the game. Eastman caught five passes for 72 yards and then proceeded to complete 10/12 passes for 133 yards, four TDs and a pick, as well as rushing 10 times for 96 yards. Ami Notis had five tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery.

Moscona finished 8/19 for 133 yards, two scores and a pick, plus 13 yards on the ground. Pintel had an impressive game with six catches for 103 yards and a score. Jason Leos led the Pioneer defense with 13 tackles and a breakup.

Hammers pound Silverbacks

The stakes were high last Thursday night as the winner of the game would make it to the dance and the loser would go home early. The night belonged to the Hammers, which won handily 46-17. It took the Hammers about two minutes to score, as quarterback Adi Hakami found Jonathan Curran for a 29-yard touchdown pass, 8-0. Hakami then found veteran tight end Liran Galili for a 38-yard score and a 16-0 lead.

Mazkeret Batya pulled within two with a 36-yard touchdown pass and then a 49-yard scoring toss from quarterback Ido Eisikovits to Rotem Oz. However, the Hakami-to-Curran play answered with a 27-yard score (22-14). Hakami then connected with Nachi Brodt for a 19-yard score to go up 28-14, and the ’Backs never managed to get within 10 points the rest of the game.

Hakami did virtually whatever he wanted in the air, as he finished with an IFL single game record 391 yards on 22/32 passing with seven touchdowns (tied second). Curran finished with an IFL single game record 213 yards receiving, to go along with four touchdowns on 10 catches. Brodt added six catches for 97 yards and two scores. Twig had nine tackles, along with a pick and breakup.

Eisikovits went 15/28 for 166 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. Oz caught 11 passes for 143 of those yards, along with both scores. Tomer Hazan led the defense with 9 tackles.

Lions leave Underdogs blue

The winner of this game would earn a bye week and home-field advantage in the semifinals, and the Jerusalem ‘Big Blue’ Lions prevailed 42-26 over Haifa Underdogs.

Lions quarterback Binyamin Schultz made up for losing a fumble in the red zone early by finding star David Abell for a 21-yard touchdown to start the scoring at 6-0. Haifa answered immediately with a 52-yard pass from quarterback Matt Kauffman to tight end Amitai Chubinski, 7-6.

The Lions came right back with a 37-yard touchdown pass to Abell on 4th-and-8, 14-7. Yet, Haifa replied in turn with another TD pass to Chubinski as the second quarter got started, tying the game at 14. The Lions had enough with back-and-forth scoring after that, notching the next three touchdowns to take a commanding 34-14 lead en route to victory.

Schultz finished with 5/10 for 127 and two scores, and rushed for 39 yards, while Abell caught four passes for 112 yards and both scores and rushed 11 times for 90 yards and another score. On defense, Mordy Charnowitz racked up 18 tackles.

Kauffman finished with 20/31 passing for 254 yards, four touchdowns and two picks. Chubinski caught 4-93-2, while Amit Kolton caught 7-90-1. Mica Allon had 16 tackles for the Haifa defense.

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