Local Leagues Gearing Up to Start Gridiron Season

Landmark win for Troopers.

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The Rebel’s Dani Eastman reaching for the touchdown pylon
against Haifa during their semifinal matchup last week. Rick Blumsack
The Rebel’s Dani Eastman reaching for the touchdown pylon against Haifa during their semifinal matchup.Credit: Rick Blumsack

The second weekend of the IFL season was an especially close one, with all three games going down to the wire. On Thursday night, the Jerusalem ‘Big Blue’ Lions held off a Tel Aviv Pioneers rally and won 32-24. In a rainy Friday game, the Petah Tikva Troopers notched their first ever win over the Judean Rebels, 24-22. On Saturday night, the Be’er Sheva Black Swarm beat the host Mazkeret Batya Silverbacks in overtime, 12-6.

The Pioneers got off to an auspicious start when a brilliant coffin-corner punt by Barak Rahavi pinned the Lions at their own one-yard line, and rookie Tzion Derbau forced Lions’ QB David Abell into an intentional grounding penalty from the end-zone for a Pioneers safety and a 2-0 lead.

But the Lions reeled off 24 straight points after that, as Abell ran in the first touchdown of the night and then connected with Ori Refaelowitz for an 11-yard score right before the half and Eli Gurwitz for a touchdown to push the Lions’ lead to 24-2. The Pioneers finally responded with a 38-yard pass from Steve Markoe to Nimrod Pintel, setting up the former for a rushing touchdown, 24-10.

Kevin Hushie intercepted Abell’s pass to start the 4th quarter, and Markoe found Pintel for a 28-yard score, narrowing the deficit to 24-18. Abell scored on a 7-yard run with five minutes to play (32-18), and Cameron Simmonds caught a tip-drill touchdown pass with 3:42 to go, but only to keep the game close at 32-24.

Abell completed 7/19 passes for 137 yards, two scores and a pick, adding 109 yards and two scores on the ground. Gurwitz caught 4-89-1. Markose led the defense with 10 tackles and three forced fumbles.

Markoe completed 9/18 passes for 187 yards and two scores. Pintel caught 4-110-1. Or Shalom led the defense with 11 tackles.

Landmark win for Troopers 

The Petah Tikva Troopers got the franchise’s first ever victory over the Judean Rebels, with the help of some former Rebels.

Former Rebel Gideon Reiz took the opening kickoff to the house and the Troopers went up 6-0. Jeff Balaban led the Rebels on a seven-minute drive, ending with his own rushing touchdown from four yards out, 8-6 Rebels.

The Rebels extended their lead to 10 on a TD pass from Chaim Aaron to Yehuda Mendlowitz and an Aaron quarterback sneak, which bracketed a score from nine yards out by former Rebel Dani Eastman.

The Troopers then rallied from their 22-12 deficit, as Eastman found Danny Mikhailov with a 41-yard TD pass to make it 22-18 and Eastman ran in the go-ahead score with four minutes to go, 24-22.

Farkas completed 3/5 passes for 34 yards and a pick, before Eastman came in and completed 3/4 passes for 47 yards and a score, as well as rushing for 141 yards and two scores on 15 carries. Mikhailov caught two passes for 40 yards and a score. Eastman led the defense with 14 tackles, a pick and a breakup.

Balaban completed 6/8 passes for 41 yards as well as 28 yards and a score rushing, and Aaron completed 5/14 passes for 71 yards, a score and a pick, as well as 78 yards and a score on the ground. Mendlowitz caught 4-64-1. Back led the defense with eight tackles and a forced fumble.

Small Swarm suffices

In the first overtime game of the young IFL season, the Black Swarm came away with an away victory over the rival Silverbacks.

In regulation, Matanel Katz completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Tomare Curran for a 6-0 Black Swam lead. Late in the final quarter, Mazkeret Batya drove the field, and two first down passes from Tim Plotkin to Mickey Jules set up Plotkin for a 5-yard tying run, 6-6, with 1:55 to play. The ‘Backs defense forced a three-and-out, but the offense couldn’t move the chains and the game went into overtime.

Facing a 3rd-and-18 situation in OT, the Swarm quarterback ran for 24 yards and a first-down, setting up a Tal Biton 9-yard TD run to take the lead 12-6. The ‘Backs got the ball but could not gain anything, and Be’er Sheva came away with their first win of the season.

Katz completed 7/19 passes for 77 yards, a score and a pick, as well as rushing for 43 yards. Biton had 25 yards and a score rushing and Curran caught 2-31-1. Seena Abass led the defense with 6 tackles.

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