The Tel Aviv Pioneers scored early and often against the Jerusalem Lions to secure the IFL championship with an 80-28 victory in Jerusalem on Friday.
With almost 700 people packing the stands, the atmosphere was festive, and Sport5 was on hand to broadcast the game.
The first few minutes of the game were close but, by the time the middle of the second quarter rolled around, the Pioneers were up by 30 and it never got any closer as they rolled to their second IFL championship in franchise history.
The game looked very competitive and promising as the teams traded touchdowns on their respective first offensive plays. Tel Aviv got the ball first and Ronny Moscona’s attempt to find a receiver down-field was tipped in the air by the Lions’ Jerome Wojtalik, leaving Cameron Simmonds to come down with it for a Pioneer touchdown just 14 seconds into the game.
Another 14 seconds later it was the Lions who got on the board, as Chaim Schiff found Effi Mishaan on a post route and Mishaan outran the defense for a Lions touchdown and an 8-6 ballgame, less than half-minute into the game.
The Pioneers, playing in their third title game, marched down the field with two rushes by Josh Henry and another by Moscona to set up a 12-yard scoring pass to Travis Mascitelli. The Pioneers forced a punt and again drove the field before, Moscona took in a keeper. The Pioneers’ Nimrod Posner forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and recovered the ball to set his team up for a Henry touchdown run and a 30-6 lead.
When, early in the second quarter, the Lions were forced to punt, Elan Neiger returned the punt to the house for the Pioneers and a 36-6 lead. The Pioneers forced another Lions punt and then drove the field, only for Moscona to be intercepted by Binyamin Schultz at the goal line. The Pioneers forced another punt, this one a real beauty by Danny Brill, which was downed on the 3-yard line, and got the ball back with 2:32 to go in the half. Moscona found Simmonds on a gorgeous 42-yard bomb for another score with 37 seconds to go in the half.
Two plays later, Pioneers safety Sagan Zavelo picked off Schiff to give his team the chance for another score before the half and score they did, as Moscona overcame a bobbled snap to find tight-end Omri Sapor in the end-zone as the clock hit zero.
Halftime, 52-6 Pioneers.
If the Lions had any hopes of preventing the second half from turning into a formality, those hopes were intercepted by Zavelo as he picked off Schiff to start the third quarter. Three plays later, Henry scored his second touchdown of the day for a 60-6 lead. The Pioneers forced a turnover on downs, and on the very next play Henry scampered 32 yards for his third score of the day and a 66-6 lead.
After a nice return by Wojtalik, Schiff found Alan Tover for a 32-yard scoring pass as they attempted to staunch the bleeding. The Lions thought they could catch another break when Wojtalik forced a Henry fumble, but Pioneers fullback Noam Dalal recovered the ball and Moscona found Sapir again for another score. The Lions were able to score again as Schiff found Mishaan from 14 yards out, and the Pioneers were driving as the third quarter came to a close, 74-20 Pioneers.
Moscona took in a keeper with 9:08 left on the clock for the Pioneers’ final score of the day. The Lions scored on their final drive of the game with a touchdown run by Hillel Goldstein, and the Pioneers were able to kneel out the clock to secure the trophy.
Moscona had a near perfect outing and was awarded the Israel Bowl VII MVP Award. His tally was 9/12 passing for 198 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. He also had 14 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Simmonds set an IFL post-season record with 156 receiving yards to go along with two touchdowns (on just four catches). Mascitelli had three grabs for 27 yards and a score, and Sapir scored on both of his catches. Henry rumbled for 131 yards and three touchdowns off 16 carries.
Defensively, Zavelo made a case for game MVP as he had two interceptions and three break-ups, along with three tackles. Lew Duker had four tackles and Charles Gordon had two tackles, both for a loss including the Pioneers lone sack of the day. Daniel Ben-Zvi had an outstanding day on kickoff duty as he sailed seven of his 11 kickoffs for touch-backs.
For the Lions, Schiff was 17/35 passing for 209 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Effi Mishaan caught eight passes for 94 yards and two scores, while Tover had 5-66-1. The Lions had only eight rushing attempts which totaled in zero net yards. For a unit sorely missing its leader, Yoni Cooper, who didn’t play because of a knee injury in the semifinals, Wojtalik was one of the only bright spots on the Lion side, with eight tackles and a forced fumble. Ariel Schwartz and Josh Flaster had five and four tackles, respectively.