Israel Football League: Rebels, Pioneers Advance to Semis

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Be'er Sheva Black Swarm on the offensive against Tel Aviv Pioneers. The Pioneers eventually triumphed 68-40.
Ramat Hasharon Hammers (in black) on the offensive against Tel Aviv Pioneers. The Pioneers eventually triumphed 68-40.Credit: 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 Be’er 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.

Be’er 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 Katz’s 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 Be’er 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 Be’er 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.

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