Israel Bowl X: Lions, Pioneers Survive Semis, Reach Bowl

This is the Lions’ fifth trip to the Israel Bowl, though they’ve lost their last three appearances.

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The Rebel’s Dani Eastman reaching for the touchdown pylon
against Haifa during their semifinal matchup last week. Rick Blumsack
The Rebel’s Dani Eastman reaching for the touchdown pylon against Haifa during their semifinal matchup.Credit: Rick Blumsack

The Jerusalem ‘Big Blue’ Lions and Tel Aviv Pioneers were victorious in their hard-fought IFL semifinal games, setting up last night’s Israel Bowl X, which ended after press time.

In the first contest, the Jerusalem Big Blue Lions outgunned the Judean Rebels 42-34 in the third playoff meeting between the local rivals in IFL history.

The Lions’ QB David Abell ran in a touchdown to give the Lions an 8-0 lead, but the Rebels struck on their next offensive play as Jeff Balaban passed to Yonatan Assaraf for a 29-yard TD, 8-6.

Balaban found Katz for a 26-yard score with 3:39 to go, 36-28, and Abell found TE Yoni Rosenbaum on fourth down, 42-28 with 2:22 left. The Rebels kept clawing their way back, this time on a TD pass from Balaban to Yehuda Mendlowitz with 58 seconds to play (42-34), but Cooper recovered the ensuing onside kick and the Lions advanced to the finals.

This is the Lions’ fifth trip to the Israel Bowl, though they’ve lost their last three appearances ever since a victory over the Haifa Underdogs in Israel Bowl I, including losses to the Pioneers in Israel Bowls II and VII.

Abell completed 15/25 passes for 182 yards, two scores and an interception, adding 85 yards and two scores on the ground. Jaski caught 10 passes for 124 yards and a score. Schultz led the defense with six tackles.

Balaban had 14/26 passing for 213 yards, two scores and a pick, as well as 19 yards and a TD on the ground. Mendlowitz caught 6-60-1. Eran Roi led the defense with eight tackles.

The Petah Tikva Troopers received a devastating blow last week, as its star Dani Eastman broke his leg playing flag football. They fought valiantly despite Eastman’s absence, but succumbed to a dominant Tel Aviv running attack, 44-32.

Aaron Karp played some wildcat QB for Petah Tikva, and ran in the first score of the game from that position just 36 seconds in to the game, 8-0. The Pioneers’ own superstar, RB Yuval Fenta, tied the game immediately with a rushing touchdown of his own, 8-8.

QB Avrami Farkas found Karp in the end-zone, taking a 14-8 lead for Petah Tikva at the end of the first quarter. Fenta tied the game at 14 with a 5-yard run, and scored again after an Or Shalom interception to give Tel Aviv a 22-14.

Farkas threw a touchdown pass to Danny Mikhailov, making it a 2-point game at 22-20, with 2:08 to play in the half. David Eastman forced a Nimrod Pintel fumble, and Anthony Morales recovered for the Troopers, setting the Troopers up to go ahead 26-22 with two seconds left, on a TD pass from Farkas to Gideon Reiz.

The Pioneers started the second half with a 12-play, six-and-a-half minute drive which ended in a Bar Rudich rushing touchdown, 30-26. On their next possession, the Pioneers rode a 13-play, 5:43-long drive into the fourth quarter for another Fenta touchdown and a 36-26 lead. Farkas threw another touchdown pass to Karp, closing the Troopers to within four, 36-32, with 5:51 to play but Fenta took in his fifth touchdown of the night with a minute to play to punch their ticket to Israel Bowl X.

This is the Pioneers’ fourth straight Israel Bowl appearance and sixth total. They were victorious in Israel Bowls II and VII, over the same Jerusalem Lions whom they will be facing in Israel Bowl X.

Fenta had 37 carries for 222 yards and five touchdowns and Rudich was 9-58-1. Nerya Busi led the defense with eight tackles and 1.5 sacks.

Farkas completed 15/30 passes for 222 yards, four TDs and a pick. Karp racked up 38 yards passing, 5-83-2 receiving and a rushing touchdown. Ahmed Abu Jaber led the defense with 15 tackles.