The Judean Rebels clinched No. 2 seed in the Israel Football League playoffs as they overcame an 18-point, 3rd-quarter deficit, scoring 30 unanswered points to defeat the Tel Aviv Pioneers 38-26.
In a back-and-forth affair on Friday morning, the Petah Tikva Troopers held off the Be’er Sheva Black Swarm 34-30, staying in the race for a first-round home game, and pushing Be’er Sheva to the brink of elimination. Also on Friday morning, the Jerusalem “Big Blue” Lions took care of business, defeating the Mazkeret Batya Silverbacks 36-21 to remain undefeated.
The Rebels’ victory was a streaky affair, as the Pioineers reeled off 26 straight points after initially falling behind 8-0. The Rebels’ Yehuda Mendlowitz threw a 61-yard catch-and-run touchdown to Yoel Hughes to start off the scoring.
The Pioneers then took charge until the final five minutes of the third quarter. They built their lead on two straight touchdown runs by Yuval Fenta, a quarterback sneak by Omri Mizrachi and Fenta’s 3rd TD of the evening.
The Rebels’ fortunes changed when Chesky Tomor returned his second pick of the night 54 yards for a score. After Tel Aviv turned the ball over on downs, Mendlowitz threw a short TD pass to Hughes to start the 4th quarter and close the gap to 26-24. Fenta was a yard short on 4th down, and two long completions by Mendlowitz set up a short TD pass to Zevi Katz for a 30-26 lead with 6:36 to play. The Pios went 4-and-out, and on the very next play Mendlowitz threw a 37-yard touchdown to Katz, 38-26 to put the game out of reach.
Mendlowitz completed 19/32 passes for 313 yards, 4 scores and 3 picks. Hughes caught 4-131-2. Jason Hess had 10 tackles for the Judean defense.
Mizrachi completed just 6/36 passes for 67 yards and 3 interceptions, with a rushing touchdown. Fenta tied a league record with 34 carries, for 190 yards and 3 scores.
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Petah Tikva Troopers 34 – Beersheva Black Swarm 30
The game on Friday morning was an exciting back-and-forth affair, and the Troopers came out on top, pushing the Black Swarm to the brink of elimination with a 34-30 victory.
After exchanging touchdowns, the Swarm went up 18-6 on a Matanel Katz touchdown run and a pass from Katz to Ronen Knobel.
Chris Daves returned the ensuing kickoff 68 yards for a touchdown, 18-14, only to have Ronnie Hayes return the next kickoff 70 yards for a touchdown of his own to make it 24-14 Be’er Sheva.
However, Petah Tikva roared to a 26-24 halftime lead after Avrami Farkas found Gideon Reiz for a 40-yard touchdown pass and Chris Daves tacked on another rushing touchdown with a minute left in the quarter.
A Be’er Sheva drive that took almost six minutes off the clock ended with a Katz touchdown pass to Knobel, giving the visitors a 30-26 lead. But Chris Daves rushed for the go-ahead score, 34-30 with nine minutes left. With time running out, the Swarm drove the field looking to win the game, but another Reiz pickoff of Katz sealed the win for Petah Tikva.
Farkas completed 18/32 passes for 243 yards, 2 scores and 2 picks. Reiz caught 7-136-1, and Daves rushed for 2-20-2 as well as a kick return touchdown. Katz completed 13/30 passes for 173 yards, 3 scores and 3 picks, adding 49 yards and a score on the ground. Knobel caught 3-66-2.
Taking care of business
Also Friday, Ezzy Jaski, filling in for the absent David Abell, completed 16/25 passes for 130 yards and 2 scores, adding 104 yards and 2 scores on the ground to lead undefeated Jerusalem to a 36-21 victory over Mazkeret Batya.
Nechemia Kaplinsky caught 9-108-2, while Shlomo Schultz had 8 tackles on defense and special teams.
The Silverbacks scored first on a connection from Ido Eisikovits to Maxim Levin, but the Lions reeled off 20 straight points on a Jaski pass to Kaplinsky and TD runs by Tani Aronin and Jaski.
Ohad Samuely ran in a touchdown for Mazkeret Batya with 6 minutes left to close the gap to 28-21, but Jaski ran a 39-yard touchdown run to end the threat.