Jerusalem Lions Clinch Top Seed

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Credit: Daniella Dolgin

The defending champion Jerusalem “Big Blue” Lions clinched the No. 1 seed with a 52-34 victory on Saturday night over the Tel Aviv Pioneers, as they prepare their pursuit of a second consecutive title.

On Thursday night, the Judean Rebels inched closer to clinching the No. 2 seed with a 72-54 victory over the Petah Tikva Troopers, while the Haifa Underdogs on Friday clinched at least the No. 5 seed with a 20-8 win over the Be’er Sheva Black Swarm.

Credit: Daniella Dolgin

Jerusalem initially found itself down 8-0 after Yuval Fenta made a touchdown run, but David Abell tied the game with a TD pass to Misha Belov. The game would be tied twice more, as the Pioneers twice answered touchdown passes from Abell to Alan Tover, first with a scoring pass from Omri Mizrachi to Shachar Regev and then a 74-yard kickoff return by Regev.

The Lions then went up 38-22 after Abell hit Ezzy Jaski for two scores. Fenta ran in another score with under 2 minutes to play in the half, 38-28.

Jerusalem put the game away in the second half as Jerome Wojtalik carried the ball 3 straight times for 62 yards and a Lions TD, and Jaski threw a screen pass to Abell, who took it 70 yards to the house for an insurmountable 52-28 lead.

Abell completed 9/16 passes for 194 yards and 5 TDs in one half at the helm, as well as catching 2 passes for 88 yards and a score. Wojtalik rushed 11-127-1 and Jaski caught 5-147-2. Leor Markose had 6 tackles.

For Tel Aviv, Mizrachi completed 12/27 passes for a career-high 255 yards, 2 scores and a pick. Fenta rushed 14-130-2, Regev caught 4-108-2. Or Shalom led the defense with 13 tackles.

Getting closer

The Rebels neared the No. 2 seed in a shootout with the Troopers.

The Rebels set the pace taking a 14-0 lead just 64 seconds into the game as Yehuda Mendlowitz found Aviad Kalifa for a 38-yard touchdown and then scored again one play after recovering an onside kick (Mendlo to Zevi Katz). The Troopers narrowed the lead to 30-26 late in the second quarter, but Chesky Tomor returned the ensuing kickoff 70 yards to take a 36-26 lead into halftime.

In the second half, the Rebels extended their lead to 52-26 after Mendlowitz ran 39 yards up the left sideline for another score and Tomor intercepted a Farkas pass and returned it 40 yards for a score. The lead would grow to 32 points, before Farkas hit Reiz for a pair of TDS passes for the final 72-54 result.

Mendlowitz completed 14/26 passes for 318 yards, 4 scores and 2 picks, adding 51 yards and a score on the ground. Hughes caught 6-153-1. Jason Hess had 10 tackles.

In the loss, Farkas attempted a record 54 pass attempts, completing 24 for 376 yards (3rd all-time), 6 touchdowns and 3 picks. Kol El rushed for 59 yards and a score, while Reiz caught 7-94-4 and Hartman caught 9-184-2. On defense, Enrique Roth had 8 tackles.

No underdog this time

On Friday, Haifa rallied past Be’er Sheva 20-8 to seal at least a fifth seed.

The Swarm went up 8-0 on the first play from scrimmage on a 59-yard catch-and-run from Matanel Katz to Ronnie Hayes. But the rest of the game belonged to Haifa, as Ron tossed TD passes to Harrison Duke-Fearnley. Amitai Chubinsky and Matan Fourier, all in the first half.

Dafni completed 12/21 passes for 147 yards, 3 scores and 3 picks. Hillel Meran rushed for 58 yards and Chubinsky caught 4-51-1. Rattner had 7 tackles, including 2 sacks.

Katz completed 11/26 passes for 130 yards, a score and 2 picks, adding 16 yards rushing, plus 2 picks on defense. Hayes caught 7-103-1. Sandro Kalandadze led the defense with 9 tackles.