Israel Football: Troopers, Rebels Eke Out Wins

Petah Tikva overcomes early mistakes against Haifa; Rebels’ strong start holds

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The Underdogs with former Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Fiedler.
The Underdogs with former Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Fiedler.Credit: Betzalel Friedman

The Kraft Family Israel Football League had two very close games this past weekend. On Thursday night, the Petah Tikva Troopers overcame an early hole in a game that they were completely dominated (other than on the scoreboard), and beat the Haifa ‘Nemo’s’ Underdogs 12-9. On Saturday night, the Judean Rebels cruised to a 32-8 halftime lead over the Be’er Sheva Black Swarm and barely held on to win 32-28.

The game on Thursday night in Petah Tikva was strange, as Haifa thoroughly dominated the hosts. However, a few big plays by the Troopers and missed opportunities by the Underdogs gave the home team the victory.

In the first quarter, the Troopers’ Matis Goldmeier picked off a Ron Dafni pass, but a personal foul against the Troopers on the run-back pushed them near their own goal line. After a bad snap, QB Avrami Farkas was sacked in the end-zone for a safety, 2-0 Haifa. Farkas made up for it toward the end of the second quarter, hitting Jonathan Curran for 42 yards up the sideline. On the very next play, he found Jesse Hartman for a TD, 6-2 at the break.

Haifa went on another long drive to start the second half, and this one ended with a TD pass from Ron Dafni to Matan Fourier, 9-6. Farkas connected with Hartman for another TD with eight minutes left in the game, 12-9. Haifa drove the field with a 12-play, 6:31-long drive, including a 4th-and-1, 27-yard fake-punt run by Rudy Rattner, but a huge holding penalty pushed Haifa away from the goal-line and they came up empty. Petah Tikva’s Chris Daves was able to pick up a first down and run out the clock.

The game had a surprise guest, as former Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Fiedler, possibly the best Jewish quarterback ever to play in the NFL, showed up during the third quarter for an Israeli helping of Thanksgiving football.

Farkas completed 7/15 passes for 111 yards, two scores and two picks. Hartman caught 3-40-2. Ahmed Abu Gaber had tackles for the Troopers’ defense.

Dafni completed 14/26 passes for 79 yards, a score and a pick, adding 28 yards on the ground. Hillel Meran continued his strong start to the season with 24 carries for 119 yards. Fourier caught 4-44-1. Rattner had five tackles and 1.5 sacks.

Beating back swarm

The Judean Rebels’ strong start was just enough to escape a Be’er Sheva rally, that commenced after the Rebels lost their starting quarterback.

The Rebels went up 16-0 as QB Chaim Aaron took in a keeper in the middle of the first quarter and then threw a touchdown pass to Daniel Yerushalmi. Be’er Sheva’s Ronnie Hayes took the ensuing kickoff 73 yards to the house, making it a 16-8 game, but Ikey Bodner ran in a 19-yard score on 3rd-and-2 to start the second quarter, putting the Rebels up 24-8.

After a successful onside kick, the Rebels drove the field but were stopped short on the 2-yard line as Nadav Eliyahu and Sandro Kalandadze stuffed Omree Gottlieb. The Rebels defense made up for it as Uria Loberbom tackled D’oge in the end-zone for a safety, 26-8. Aaron got hurt and left the game on the Rebels’ next drive and they punted the ball away. Katz then threw another interception, this one to Zev Hoffman, and Gottlieb pounded in a score, making it 32-8 just before halftime.

The loss of Aaron showed as the Rebels failed to score in the second half as its offense looked lost and the host Swarm reeled off three consecutive touchdowns. Katz threw a touchdown pass to Ronen Knobel and another two to Hayes, the latter making it 32-28 with six minutes to play. However, the Rebels were able to milk most of the remaining time and its defense held to avert defeat.

Aaron completed 9/17 passes for 99 yards and a score, adding 46 yards and a score on the ground before leaving the game in the second quarter. Gottlieb had 74 yards and a score on 21 carries and Yerushalmi caught 4-40-1. Hess led the defense with three tackles, two break-ups and a pick.

Katz completed 9/23 passes for 152 yards, three scores and three picks, leading the team with 34 yards rushing. Hayes caught four balls for 81 yards and two scores. The defense was busy as seven players recorded four tackles or more, including nine by Sandro Kalandadze.

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