The Kraft Family Israel Football League completed what was probably the closest weekend of games in league history, as the three contests were decided by a grand total of six points. Last Thursday, the Tel Aviv Pioneers held off a comeback attempt by the Jerusalem “Big Blue” Lions to win 36-34. On Friday morning the Haifa Underdogs beat the Judean Rebels 27-26 on a last-minute touchdown and on Saturday night a last-second field goal lifted the Be’er Sheva Black Swarm over the Mazkeret Batya Silverbacks by a score of 9-6.
The Pioneers held off a late rally by the Lions to win by two points. Ronny Moscona became the third starter at quarterback this season for the Pioneers, which jumped out to a 22-0 lead in the first quarter on two scoring runs by rookie running back Yuval Fenta and a touchdown pass from Moscona to veteran tight end Omri Sapir.
The host Lions narrowed the deficit to eight after Binyamin hit all-around star David Abell for a 30-yard touchdown strike and Schultz took in a quarterback sneak, but Moscona answered immediately with a 65-yard catch and run to Nimrod Pintel. The Lions, however, got right back on the board with a 40-yard touchdown pass from Schultz to Abell to leave the halftime score at 28-22 Pioneers.
Schultz ran in a quarterback sweep from 16 yards out to tie the game at 28 in the third quarter. Fenta ran in his third touchdown of the night just as the fourth quarter got underway to make it 36-28 Pioneers. Abell made a touchdown run late in the final period, but the potential game-tying conversion pass fell short.
Moscona finished 14/25 for 176 yards, two TDs and a pick in his first appearance under center since winning MVP honors at Israel Bowl VII. Pintel caught three passes for 87 yards and a TD and Fenta finished with 22 carries for 89 yards and 3 scores. Jason Leos led the defense with 13 tackles and half a sack, Schultz completed 9/21 passes for 169 yards, two scores and two picks plus 44 yards and two scores on the ground.
Underdogs 27, Rebels 26
The Underdogs notched their second win this season over the defending champs, scoring a touchdown and extra point with 44 seconds to play.
Haifa started off the game with a 36-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matt Kauffman to Matan Fourier. Dani Eastman carried in a score from 11 yards out to make it 7-6. Kauffman found a wide-open Nimrod Smith for a 22-yard score as time expired in the first quarter and then found Smith wide open again for a 20-6 lead. Judean quarterback Chaim Schiff found rookie receiver Misha Belov with a screen pass, and the latter took it 49 yards to the house to narrow the halftime gap to six, at 20-14.
Early in the second half Eastman intercepted Kauffman’s pass and ran in the tying score nine plays later to tie the game at 20-all. In the fourth quarter, Eastman took a handoff and threw it over a defender to Belov for the Rebels’ go-ahead score, 26-20. The Underdogs turned their fortunes around when Smith intercepted, giving Haifa the ball back with 3:36 to go in the game.
Kauffman hit tight end Amit Kolton for a huge 28-yard gain, setting up Smith for his third TD reception of the game with 44 ticks to go in the game, and the Underdogs went ahead 27-26 on an extra-point kick by Ilya Averbuch. A 26-yard completion to Belov put the Rebels within striking distance, but after spiking the ball the Judeans threw three straight incomplete passes to give Haifa the win.
Kauffman completed 21/26 passes for 231 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Smith caught 10 passes for 112 yards and three scores and led the defense with seven tackles, a pick and a breakup.
Schiff completed just 13/36 passes for 211 yards, a score and a pick. Belov caught six passes for 128 yards and two scores, while Eastman had 64 yards and two scores rushing, 49 yards and a score passing and caught four passes for 53 yards. Eastman also lead the defense with 12 tackles and two picks.
Black Swarm 9, Silverbacks 6
The visiting Swarm was held scoreless until the last two minutes and still somehow squeaked away with the victory.
A 33-yard Tim Plotkin field goal with 1:08 to go in the first quarter put the hosts up 3-0. In the third quarter, the Silverbacks put together an 11-play drive that took almost 7 minutes off the clock and capped it off with a 28-yard Plotkin field goal for a 6-0 lead. In the final period, David Rabinski ran in the tying score with 1:09 to go in the game, though Mazkeret Batya stuffed the potential game-winning conversion. Be’er Sheva got the ball back with 36 seconds to go, setting up Tomer Cohen for the first regular season game-winning field goal kick in league history, which just happened to be the first made field goal of his career.