Rebels Let Lead Slip but Beat Back Pioneers in Opener

Judean’s win over Tel Aviv caps opening weekend in Kraft Family Israel Football League

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Jerusalem Lions’ Effi Mishaan running against the Petah Tikva Troopers.
Jerusalem Lions’ Effi Mishaan running against the Petah Tikva Troopers. Credit: Dotan Doron

The Judean Rebels held off the Tel Aviv Pioneers 30-24 on Saturday night in Tel Aviv to cap off an exciting opening weekend in the Kraft Family Israel Football League.

On Thursday night, the Jerusalem Big Blue Lions beat the Petah Tikva Troopers 34-20, inaugurating the new football field at the Kraft Family Sports Campus in Jerusalem, and on Friday morning the Haifa Underdogs beat the Mazkeret Batya Silverbacks 14-7.

In Jerusalem, the Lions’ Effi Mishaan, back on the field after a few seasons in the army, made his presence known immediately with a 40-yard return on the opening kickoff. The Lions took advantage of the good field position and started the season exactly where they left off at the end of last season – a touchdown pass from David Abell to Ezzy Jaski, 8-0.

Abell connected with Mishaan for a 77-yard catch-and-run touchdown to take a 16-0 lead in the second quarter. Binyamin Schultz intercepted an Avrami Farkas pass, setting up another Lion TD pass, this one from Abell to Nechemia Kaplinsky, 22-0. The guests got on the board with 3:25 to play in the half on a pass from Farkas to Reiz (22-6).

The Troopers started the second half with a touchdown pass from Farkas to Ari Levin, who made a nifty move to get into the end-zone, 22-14. Another interception by Schultz set up a rushing TD by Abell, 28-14. Farkas connected with new target Jonathan Curran for a TD just before the end of the third quarter, making the score 28-20. On the first play of the final quarter, Abell hit Mishaan for another score, 34-20 to ice Big Blue’s victory.

Abell completed 18/28 passes for 278 yards and 4 touchdowns, adding 33 yards and a score on the ground but also lost 2 fumbles. Mishaan caught 5-147-2 and added 21 yards rushing. Schultz finished the game with 5 tackles, 4 interceptions and a fumble recovery..

In the loss, Farkas completed 21/43 passes for 272 yards, 3 scores and 5 interceptions. Curran caught 6 balls for 113 yards and a score.

Haifa spoiled Mazkeret Batya’s homecoming with a 14-7 victory. Haifa did all of its scoring in the first half with a pair of touchdown passes from Ron Dafni to Omer Hasson. Mazkeret Batya QB Ido Eisikovits took in a keeper with just over two minutes to play, narrowing the gap to 14-7, but Haifa got a first down and was able to kneel out the clock.

Dafni completed 13/22 passes for 94 yards, 2 scores and an interception, while Hasson caught 5 passes for 42 yards and 2 scores. Allon lead the defense with 8 tackles, a sack and an interception.

Eisikovitz completed 6/21 passes for 122 yards and a pick, adding on the ground the ‘Backs lone score of the day.

Fast start benefits Rebels

The Rebels got off to a fast start in Tel Aviv, scoring on their second play from scrimmage en route to a 30-24 win over the Pioneers. Chaim Aaron found a streaking Yoel Hughes for a 60-yard touchdown pass to start the scoring at 6-0. The Rebels pushed their lead to 22-0 by halftime on a 3-yard keeper by Aaron and a 34-yard TD on 4th-and-18 from Aaron to Yehuda Mendlowitz.

Undaunted, the Pioneers rallied for the next four touchdowns to take the lead. They scored on their first possession of the half with Ariel Hoffman scoring a quick TD, after which an awful Rebel decision to go for it on 4th-and-long from their own 10-yard line gave the Pioneers the ball again. This time reigning Offensive Player-of-the-Year Yuval Fenta ran in his first TD of the young season, 22-12. Eliraz tallied his second INT of the night off Aaron, and Simmonds ran in a score, making it 22-18 at the start of the 4th period. Rebels’ rookie Omree Gottlieb lost a fumble, giving the Pioneers the ball back with 5 minutes to go. The hosts capitalized on the opportunity and scored a touchdown on their fourth straight possession, capping an improbable second- half 24-point swing with a 60-yard touchdown scamper by Hoffman to go up 24-22 with 4:31 to play.

A 40-yard pass from Aaron to Hughes on 1st down put the Rebels in business immediately, and a 4th down completion by the same duo set the Rebels up for Ari Gold to run in the go-ahead score, 30-24 with 1:30 to play. Mendlowitz intercepted a long Simmonds’ pass, and the Pioneers burned their timeouts in an effort to get the ball back. That they did, with 3 seconds to play, but Aaron came over to break up Simmonds’ desperation heave to preserve the win.

Aaron completed 13/23 passes for 218 yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs, adding 69 yards and a score on the ground. Hughes caught 3-107-1. On defense, rookie safety Gidon Hazony had 6 tackles.

Simmonds completed a dismal 2/10 passes for 8 yards and 2 interceptions, adding 46 yards and a score on the ground.