Israel: Jerusalem Lions wrap up perfect season; Troopers, Underdogs clinch 3rd, 4th seeds

With only one game remaining in the regular season of the Kraft Family Israel Football League, the first 5 seeds have been decided. The Jerusalem ‘Big Blue’ Lions had already clinched the #1 seed, as had the Judean Rebels with the #2. The Petah Tikva Troopers defeated the Mazkeret Batya ‘Rose Valley Crossfit’ Silverbacks on Friday, which, coupled with the Lions victory over the Tel Aviv Pioneers, clinched them the #3 seed. The Haifa Underdogs blowout of the Rebels gave them the #4 seed, while sending the Pioneers down to #5. The 6th seed and final playoff berth will be decided on Saturday night, as the Silverbacks face off with the Beersheva Black Swarm.

Jerusalem ‘Big Blue’ Lions 40 – Tel Aviv Pioneers 36

Watch a replay of the game

By Zachary Engel

Jerusalem, Israel – 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 emerge victorious in front of a raucous crowd at the Kraft Family Sports Campus. The Lions offense was led by (starting WR and) backup QB Ezzy Jaski, who was dominant all night. Jaski threw for 258 yards on 17 completions (56.7%), 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 WR, made some spectacular deep catches en route to a career day, recording nine catches 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. Led by star RB Yuval Fenta, the Pioneers opened the scoring late in the first quarter (0:33) when Fenta took a 15-yard pitch into the end zone, giving Tel Aviv an 8-0 lead. It was the first of five rushing touchdowns the Pioneers would score on the night. 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.

Perhaps frustration has started to affect the Pioneers, who committed a number of devastating penalties, including a personal foul on fourth and long that gave the Lions a first down deep inside Pioneer territory that the hosts quickly converted into a touchdown. Further, there were multiple unsportsmanlike conduct penalties called on both sides as tempers flared, stemming from a powerful run by Yuval Fenta in the first half that flattened a Lions defender.

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 the season as the fifth seed, facing the Underdogs on the road in Round 1. The Lions will host a semifinal game on Thursday, March 15th.

Petah Tikva Troopers 36 – Mazkeret Batya ‘Rose Valley Crossfit’ Silverbacks 28

 

The Silverbacks started on on the right foot, with an Elad Iluz interception off of Avrami Farkas and an Ohad Samuely touchdown run, 7-0. A 40-yard pass from Farkas to Jesse Hartman set up a Chris Daves touchdown run, 7-6. The teams exchanged punts, the Silverbacks punted again, but Gideon Reiz lost the ball, and the ‘Backs recovered. Samuely ran in another score (14-6) but Daves answered with a touchdown run of his own after Michael Slabodkin dropped a sure-fire interception, 14-12. Vassily Zaks blocked a Trooper punt, and Ido Eisikovits found tight end Mark Rocklin in the end-zone for a 21-12 Silverbacks halftime lead.

Mazkeret went 3-and-out to start the second half and Petah Tikva turned the ball over on downs. Mazkeret returned the favor, and Daves ran in his 3rd TD just before the end of the 3rd quarter, 21-20. Samuely lost a fumble, and Petah Tikva took the lead for the first time on a TD strike from Farkas to Gideon Reiz, 28-21. The ‘Backs punted and Farkas hit Reiz for another score with under 5 minutes to play, 36-21. Mazkeret wouldn’t go away, however, scoring on a short pass to Samuely, who took it 38 yards for a score, 36-28. The ‘Backs defense forced a Trooper punt with 1 minute to play, but Matis Goldmeier came up with 2 big break-ups on the last two plays of the game.

Individual performances

Troopers

Farkas completed 16/34 passed for 243 yards, 2 scores and an INT. Reiz caught 7-141-2, and Daves rushed 20-85-3. Enrique Roth lead the defense with 7 tackles, a TFL, a forced fumble and a break-up. Ahmed Abu-Gaber added 4 tackles, 2 TFL and a fumble recovery.

Silverbacks

Eisikovits completed 8/28 passes for 104 yards and 2 scores. Samuely rushed 20-98-2, adding 1-38-1 receiving. Roi Artzi lead the defense in tackles (not a good sign for a free safety) with 14, 4 break-ups and a forced fumble. Iluz added 8, a TFL and a pick.

The Troopers clinched the #3 seed and will host the #6 seed, which could very well be the Silverbacks. The Silverbacks have one game left against the Black Swarm. In order to clinch the first playoff berth in franchise history, they need to beat the Swarm or lose by 34 points or less.

Photos: Dvir Mintz and Tom Nudelman

Haifa ‘Nemo’s’ Underdogs 46 – Judean Rebels 0

The Judean Rebels came in to the game short-handed and with the second seed already clinched. 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.

Mica Allon started the game off with a pick-6 (6-0) and after a bad Rebels snap, Juliano Nicola passed to Amitai Chubinsky for a 13-0 lead. The Rebels turned the ball over on downs and Haifa punted. The Rebels turned the ball over on downs, and Rudy Rattner ran in a score, 19-0. Allon picked off another Rebels pass, but Nachshon Kasovitz recovered a Nicola fumble. The Rebels turned the ball over on downs after their longest drive of the day (8 plays), and Rattner ran in another one, 25-0. The Rebels turned the ball over on downs, but David Sion recovered an Ido Leffel fumble before the half.

The Rebels started the half with an onside kick (as usual), but Rattner recovered it and returned it for a score, 33-0. Going for it deep in their own territory, a Rebels trick play was sniffed out by the defense and Haifa got the ball back on the Rebels’ own 11-yard line. Juliano promptly threw a TD pass to Allon, 40-0. Allon recovered a bad Judean snap, but the Judeans stopped Haifa on downs. Another T.O.D. for the guests lead to another Allon TD catch, 46-0. The Rebels’ last drive ended in naught.

Individual performances

Underdogs

Nicola completed 4/13 passes for 21 yards and 3 scores, 2 to Allon who also had 9 tackles and 2 INTs. Rattner rushed for 53 yards and 2 scores, as well as recording 10 tackles, 3.5 TFL, a sack and his kick return TD.

Rebels

Omree Gottlieb rushed for 45 yards on 21 carries. Evyatar Cohen had 5 tackles and Asher Spatner had 3, a TFL and a break-up.

The Underdogs will host the Pioneers next Friday in the quarterfinals, and the Rebels will host a semifinal game in two weeks’ time.

Israel Football League
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