The Kraft Family Israel Football League has crowned a new-old champion, the Jerusalem “Big Blue” Lions. The Lions came back from a 14-point deficit late in the fourth quarter of Israel Bowl X to tie the game against the Tel Aviv Pioneers and send it to overtime, where David Abell connected with his top target Ezzy Jaski to clinch the title with a 42-36 victory.
- Israel Bowl X: Lions, Pioneers survive semis, reach bowl
- Israel Football League: Rebels, Pioneers advance to semis
- Israel Football League: Lions clinch first as Pioneers eliminate Underdogs
Almost a thousand fans came to Petah Tikva to watch the championship game, replete with a halftime performance by former IFL player and “The Voice Israel” contestant Avi Ganz.
Abell took home game MVP honors after completing 15/34 passes for 237 yards, six touchdowns and an interception, as well as 51 yards on the ground. Binyamin Schultz caught 4-74-3, Jaski caught 4-88-2 and Misha Belov caught 5-69-1 for the victors. Jerome Wojtalik rushed for 94 yards. Tzvi Sklar registered seven tackles and 0.5 sacks as well as forcing a fumble. Aryeh-Leib Sklar and Mordy Charnowitz racked up nine tackles each.
For the Pioneers, Steve Markoe completed 5/12 passes for 49 yards and a TD as well as rushing for a score. Yuval Fenta rushed 37 times for 163 yards and three TDs and Bar Rudich added 45 yards. Kolton caught 2-73 and WR Nimrod Pintel caught 2-34-1. Asaf Katz had a great game on defense with 11 tackles and a sack, as well as a fumble recovery and a break-up.
Both teams came into the game looking to shake a losing spell. The Lions had lost their previous three Israel Bowl appearances since their championship in Israel Bowl I. The Pioneers, playing in their fourth straight Israel Bowl, lost the last two to the Judean Rebels, since having blown out the Lions in Israel Bowl VII.
The Pioneers started the game with a 12-play drive that lasted over six minutes, but Sklar led a Lions’ goal-line stand.
Facing 4th-and-2 from midfield in the second quarter, the Lions decided to go for it and Abell threw a short pass to veteran Binyamin Schultz, who evaded a few would-be tacklers and put Jerusalem on the scoreboard first, 8-0 after a 2-point completion to Belov. The Pioneers answered right back with a 4-yard rushing touchdown (and conversion) by Tel Aviv star Fenta, tying the game at 8 with four minutes to play in the half. Or Shalom intercepted an Abell pass, setting up another Fenta score with three minutes to play (16-8) and Abell found Schultz for another catch-and-run touchdown with 1:47 to go in the half, 16-14.
TA QB Markoe took in a keeper with 26 seconds left, making it 22-14.
The Pioneers didn’t let up, forcing a Jerusalem punt before Markoe threw a bomb to Pintel who made a great, one-handed catch to give the Pioneers a 28-14 lead with under four minutes to play in the third quarter.
Abell found Belov for a short score at the start of the fourth, 28-22. Two possessions later, Cameron Simmonds came in at QB for the Pios, and on 3rd-and-20 he passed to big tight end Amit Kolton, who rumbled 59 yards to set up another Fenta touchdown with 3:47 to go, 36-22. The Pioneers could feel the trophy within their grasp and the faces on the Lions’ bench looked bleak. On fourth down after three straight incomplete passes. Abell found Ezzy Jaski for a 41-yard catch-and-run, pulling the Lions to within a score, 36-28, with 2:05 to play.
The Lions’ defense held fast with Sklar in on three tackles of Fenta, forcing a Tel Aviv punt with under a minute left. After three incompletes and facing 4th-and-game, Abell found Belov for a 34-yard pass down to the one, and spiked the ball to stop the clock. Fenta broke up Abell’s 2nd-down pass, but Abell found Schultz in the front-left corner of the end zone with six seconds left, then hit Jaski on the goal line for the tying conversion, 36-all.
As per NCAA overtime rules, each team got one possession with 25 yards to go. The Pioneers went first, and the Lions defense stood fast. The Lions got the ball, and on the very first play Abell threw deep to Jaski, who hauled the ball in over Barak Rahavi for the championship-clinching touchdown.
”It is a thrill and an honor to be standing here,” said Lions coach Gani Medad after the game.