Israel Football: Petah Tikva Clinches 3rd Seed in Postseason

Beats Mazkeret Batya in close contest; Haifa gets 4th seed with 46-0 blowout of Judean

The Silverbacks trying to stop the Pioneers
Tom Nudelman

With only one game remaining in the regular season of the Kraft Family Israel Football League, the first five seeds have been decided.

The Jerusalem “Big Blue” Lions had already clinched the No. 1 seed, as had the Judean Rebels with the No. 2. The Petah Tikva Troopers defeated the Mazkeret Batya Silverbacks 36-28 on Friday, which, coupled with the Lions’ 40-36 victory over the Tel Aviv Pioneers, clinched them the No. 2 seed. The Haifa Underdogs’ 46-0 blowout of the Rebels gave them the No. 4 seed, while sending the Pioneers down to No. 5. The No. 6 seed and final playoff berth will be decided on Saturday night, as the Silverbacks face off with the Be’er Sheva Black Swarm.

The Silverbacks did not go down easily to the Troopers, taking a 21-12 halftime lead. Petah Tikva’s Chris Daves answered two Ohad Samuely touchdown runs with two of his own, before Ido Eisikovits found tight end Mark Rocklin in the end zone to put the Silverbacks up by nine.

Petah Tikva, however, took charge in the second half, reeling off three straight touchdowns. After Daves ran in his third score, Avrami Farkas hit Gideon Reiz twice to go up 36-21. Mazkeret wouldn’t go away, however, scoring on a short pass to Samuely, who took it 38 yards for a score, and got the ball back with one minute to play, but Matis Goldmeier came up with two big break-ups on the last two plays of the game.

Farkas completed 16/34 passed for 243 yards, two scores and an interception. Reiz caught 7-141-2, and Daves rushed 20-85-3. Enrique Roth led the defense with seven tackles.

Eisikovits completed 8/28 passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns. Samuely rushed 20-98-2, adding 1-38-1 receiving. Roi Artzi led the defense in tackles with 14.

Perfect Lions

The Jerusalem Lions wrapped up their regular season campaign with a perfect 10-0 record, thanks to their thrilling 40-36 victory over the Tel Aviv Pioneers in the regular season finale. Despite already locking up the top seed in the postseason and resting a number of key players, the Lions managed to fend off Tel Aviv’s lethal rushing attack to pull out the win in front of a raucous crowd at the Kraft Family Sports Campus.

The Lion offense was led by starting wide receiver and backup QB Ezzy Jaski, who was dominant all night. Jaski threw for 258 yards on 17 completions, while recording four touchdowns through the air, also adding 40 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, accounting for all six of the Lions scores on the night. While Jaski was phenomenal in the game, starting QB David Abell, playing as wide receiver, made some spectacular deep catches en route to a career day, recording nine receptions for 177 yards and two scores.

For the Pioneers, it was once again the ground-’n’-pound style of play that kept them in control for most of the game. Running back Yuval Fenta, who was coming off a record performance two weeks ago versus the Judean Rebels, picked up where he left off, rushing 25 times for 191 yards and two touchdowns. In his last two games, Fenta has recorded a whopping 61 carries for 387 yards and five touchdowns, though the Pioneers ultimately dropped both those contests despite holding the lead in the fourth quarter.

After the Lions scored with under two minutes remaining to take the lead 40-36, the Pioneers had one last opportunity to spoil the Lions’ bid at an undefeated season. With two timeouts and 1:06 remaining, the Pioneers managed to get into Jerusalem territory before QB Omri Mizrachi threw a game-ending interception to Effi Mishaan at the Lions’ 16-yard line.

With the loss, the Pioneers dropped to 4-6 on the season and will finish as the fifth seed, facing the Underdogs on the road in Round 1. The Lions will host a semifinal game on Thursday, March 15.

Rebels crushed

The Judean Rebels came in to the game short-handed and with the second seed already clinched, and the Underdogs jumped at the opportunity to clinch a home playoff game of their own, handing the Judeans the worst loss in point differential in franchise history.

Haifa QB Juliano Nicola completed 4/13 passes for 21 yards and three scores. The Underdogs will host the Pioneers next Friday in the quarterfinals, and the Rebels will host a semifinal game in two weeks’ time.