Israel Football League: Rebels, Pioneers Advance to Semis

In minor upset, form side Judean Rebels overcomes Ramat Hasharon Hammers for fourth straight victory.

Be'er Sheva Black Swarm on the offensive against Tel Aviv Pioneers. The Pioneers eventually triumphed 68-40.
Daniella Dolgin

The 2016-2017 Kraft Family IFL Playoffs got started with a bang as the fifth-seeded Judean Rebels beat fourth-seeded Ramat Hasharon Hammers on the road, while the heavy underdog #6 Beer Sheva Black Swarm gave the #3 Tel Aviv Pioneers a run for its money before succumbing to the favored Tel Avivians in a shootout.

The Judean Rebels notched its fourth straight victory with a 36-14 road win against Ramat Hasharon.

QB Jeff Balaban put the Rebels up 16-0 on touchdown passes to Yoel Hughes and rookie tight end Zevi Katz. Jonathan Curran passed a touchdown to Ben Landon, narrowing the deficit to 16-6 before halftime.

Two more touchdown passes, from Chaim Aaron to Balaban and from Balaban to Katz, gave the Rebels an insurmountable 30-6 lead with 7:20 to play.

Balaban completed 8/12 passes for 178 yards, four scores, a pick and a receiving touchdown. Avi Landesman ran 16-62, and Katz caught 2-64-2. Jeremiah Jelski was a beast on defense, with seven tackles and four sacks, while Avraham Fisgus had 10 tackles and a sack.

For the Hammers, Curran completed 10/15 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown, as well as 30 yards rushing and 1-56-1 receiving. Yohanan Dunietz rushed 13 times for 37 yards. Ehud Klein had 11 tackles and half a sack.

The Rebels played the Jerusalem Lions in the semifinals last night, but the game ended after press time.

High-scoring bonanza

The Pioneers-Black Swarm contest turned into a Wild West-style shootout on Friday in Tel Aviv, with Tel Aviv coming out on top 68-40.

Beer Sheva started off the scoring with a nine-yard TD pass from Matanel Katz to Ronnie Hayes (6-0), set up by a 58-yard Tomare Curran kickoff return. Yuval Fenta took eight straight carries for 66 yards and a Tel Aviv touchdown (8-6).

On the first play of the second quarter, Katz found Hayes for a 51-yard catch-and-run, to put the guests up 12-8. A 38-yard return by Nimrod Pintel set up a 39-yard touchdown run by Fenta (16-12). Fenta ran in his third TD of the morning with 3:23 to play in the half (22-12). Pioneers defensive captain Asaf Katz picked off Matanel Katzs pass, immediately setting up another Fenta TD (28-12). Katz connected with Hayes for a 32-yard TD right before halftime, 28-18.

Pioneers QB, Steve Markoe, threw a 22-yard TD pass to Cameron Simmonds to start off the second half (36-18) and Katz answered with a 26-yard touchdown to Ronen Knobel (36-26). Elan Neiger returned the ensuing kickoff to the house (44-26) and Beer Sheva countered with a 26-yard Katz-to-Hayes touchdown (44-34). Markoe took in a touchdown himself (52-34) and Katz/Hayes answered with their fifth touchdown connection of the day, making it 52-40.

The Pioneers started the fourth quarter with a Markoe-to-Pintel touchdown pass (60-40). With 3:44 to go, Simmonds ran in the nail-in-the-coffin to complete the scoring.

Fenta had a monster game with a playoff record 259 yards and four touchdown on 27 carries. Markoe completed 8/17 passes for 130 yards, two scores and a rushing score. Pintel caught 3-60-1 and Simmonds had 2-30-1 and a rushing TD. Asaf Katz led the defense with nine tackles and an interception.

Matanel Katz completed 14/21 passes for 255 yards, six touchdowns and an interception for Beer Sheva. Hayes had nine catches for 177 yards and a playoff record five touchdowns. Curran led the defense with eight tackles.

The Pioneers are off to Petah Tikva to face the second-seeded Troopers in the other semifinal today.