Jerusalem Lions win Israel Bowl X in overtime thriller

The Kraft Family Israel Football League has crowned a new/old champion, the Jerusalem ‘Big Blue’ Lions. The Lions came back from a 14-point deficit late in the fourth quarter of Israel Bowl X to tie the game and send it to overtime, where David Abell connected with his top target Ezzy Jaski to win the game 42-36 in front of more than 1,000 fans.

Jerusalem ‘Big Blue’ Lions 42 – Tel Aviv Pioneers 36 (OT)

Ezzy Jaski scores game-winning TD for Lions Photo: Daniella Dolgin

Almost a thousand fans came to Petah Tikva to watch Israel Bowl X, and IFL Nation could not have asked for a better game. The crowd also enjoyed a halftime performance by former IFL player and ‘The Voice Israel’ contestant Avi Ganz.

Both teams came into the game looking to get some large monkeys off of their respective backs. The Lions had lost their previous three Israel Bowl appearances, dating back to their championship in Israel Bowl I. The Pioneers, playing in their 4th straight Israel Bowl, lost the last 2 to the Judean Rebels, since having blown out the Lions in Israel Bowl VII.

The Pioneers started the game with a 12-play drive that lasted over 6 minutes, but Tzvi Sklar lead a Lions’ goal-line stand. A 3rd-down break-up by Pioneers’ captain Asaf Katz forced a Lion’s punt, but the Pios were forced to punt as well right before the end of the first quarter, still 0-0.

Tel Aviv RB Yuval Fenta Photo: Daniella Dolgin

Facing 4th-and-2 from midfield, the Lions decided to go for it and David Abell threw a short pass to veteran Binyamin Schultz, who evaded a few would-be tacklers and put Jerusalem on the scoreboard first, 8-0 after a 2-point completion to Misha Belov.

The Pioneers answered right back with a 4-yard rushing touchdown (and conversion) by Tel Aviv star Yuval Fenta, tying the game at 8 with 4 minutes to play in the half. Or Shalom intercepted an Abell pass, setting up another Fenta score with 3 minutes to play (16-8) and Abell found Schultz for another catch-and-run touchdown with 1:47 to go in the half, 16-14.

TA QB Steve Markoe took in a keeper with 26 seconds left, making it 22-14. The two-point conversion was interesting as Tzvi Sklar recovered a fumble and tried to take it the other way for two, but Pioneers’ WR Nimrod Pintel raced back to save a defensive 2-point conversion. Pintel was also there to knock down the Lions’ last-ditch scoring attempt before halftime, 22-14 at the half.

The Pioneers didn’t let up, forcing a Jerusalem punt before Markoe threw a bomb to Pintel who made a great, one-handed catch to give the Pioneers a 2-score lead at 28-14 with under 4 minutes to play in the 3rd-quarter. Jerome Wojtalik fumbled the ball back to the Pioneers, but the Lions stopped the Pioneers one yard short of the first-down marker before the end of the third quarter, still 28-14.

Pioneers WR Nimrod Pintel makes amazing catch Photo: Daniella Dolgin

Abell found Belov for a short score at the start of the 4th, 28-22, and the Lions forced a Tel Aviv punt. With 6:47 to go, Elan Neiger broke up an Abell 4th-down pass to give the ball back to Tel Aviv. Cameron Simmonds came in at QB for the Pios, and on 3rd-and-20 he passed to big tight end Amit Kolton, who rumbled 59 yards to set up another Fenta touchdown with 3:47 to go, 36-22.

The Pioneers could feel the trophy within their grasp and the faces on the Lions’ bench looked bleak. On 4th down after 3 straight incompletions, Abell found Ezzy Jaski for a 41-yard catch-and-run, pulling the Lions to within a score, 36-28, with 2:05 to play. The Lions’ defense held fast with Aryeh-Leib Sklar in on 3 tackles of Fenta, forcing a Tel Aviv punt with under a minute left. After 3 incompletions and facing 4th-and-game, Abell found Belov for a 34-yard pass down to the one, and spiked the ball to stop the clock. Fenta broke up Abell’s 2nd-down pass, but Abell found Schultz in the front-left corner of the end-zone with 6 seconds left, and then found Jaski on the goal-line for the tying conversion, 36-all.

As per NCAA overtime rules, every team would get one possession with 25 yards to go. The Pioneers went first, and the Lions defense stood fast. The Lions got the ball, and on the very first play Abell threw deep to Jaski who hauled the ball in over Barak Rahavi for the championship-clinching touchdown! 42-36 was the final score, as the Jerusalem ‘Big Blue’ Lions book-ended the first decade of the Kraft Family Israel Football League with championships.

Lions coach Gani Medad:

”It is a thrill and an honor to be standing here. I want to give a huge shout-out to our sponsor Barry Liben who introduced me to the game, and of course to Robert Kraft and the entire Kraft Family.”

Lions RB Jerome Wojtalik rumbles in for a score Photo: Daniella Dolgin

Individual performances

Lions

Abell took home game MVP honors after completing 15/34 passes for 237 yards, 6 scores and a pick, as well as 51 yards on the ground. Schultz caught 4-74-3, Jaski caught 4-88-2 and Belov caught 5-69-1 for the victors. Wojtalik rushed for 94 yards. Tzvi Sklar registered 7 tackles, 3 TFL and 0.5 sacks as well as forcing a fumble. Leib Sklar (1 TFL) and Mordy Charnowitz racked up 9 tackles apiece.

Pioneers

Markoe completed 5/12 passes for 49 yards and a score as well as rushing for a score. Fenta rushed 37 times for 163 yards and 3 scores and Bar Rudich added 45 yards. Kolton caught 2-73 and Pintel caught 2-34-1. Asaf Katz had a great game on defense with 11 tackles, 1.5 TFL and a sack, as well as a fumble recovery and a break-up. Nerya Busi added 7 tackles, and Or Shalom had 3, a pick and a forced fumble.

Israel Football League
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