The Belgian Barbarians, Team Belgium, downed Israel 32-23 in their opening game of the IFAF European Championship Group B qualification tournament in Jerusalem this past weekend.
Led by game MVP Ruben De Ruyter’s two touchdowns, the Belgians overcame a 17-14 halftime deficit to score three straight touchdowns before the Israelis scored on a fumble recovery with less than a minute left.
Belgium picked off Israel’s quarterback seven (!) times returning two of the interceptions for touchdowns.
Belgium’s 19 year old quarterback Willem Van compernolle, in his first international start, threw for 155 yards and two touchdowns but tossed four interceptions. His top receiver was De Ruyter who had three catches for 55 yards and a touchdown. The other receiving touchdown was scored by Thomas Bouron. Arkadi Meerschout had 21 carries for 74 yards while Van Compernolle carried the ball five times for 12 yards and a touchdown. De Ruyter also had two interceptions, one for a touchdown. Nick Vanhee scored on a pick six.
For Israel, Matt Kauffman completed 17 of 35 passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns but threw seven interceptions which may well be an IFAF record. Danny Mikhailov hauled in four passes for 43 yards and a score while Barak Katzir had three receptions for 34 yards and another touchdown. Leib Sklar scored on a 35 yard interception return.
The Belgians jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead before Israel, playing in front of almost 1,000 cheering fans, stormed back scoring two touchdowns and adding a field goal with seconds to go in the first half to take the lead.
Van Compernolle opened the scoring on Belgium’s first drive, punching the ball in from the six yard line. Early in the second quarter, he added to the lead, finding Bouron for a 25 yard touchdown.
The Israelis came back with just over two minutes remaining in the half as Kauffman hit Mikhailov from 22 yards out to narrow the lead to 14-6. Then , only a minute later, Israel tied it as Katzir caught a 17 yard touchdown pass from Kauffman while David Fitoussi added the two point conversion.
A Belgian fumble gave Israel the ball deep in Barbarians territory and the host team capitalized with Mikhailov kicking a 29 yard field goal as time expired, giving the Israelis a 17-14 lead.
The third quarter was a different story as the Belgian defense kept the Israelis at bay while Van Compernolle first connected with De Ruyter for a 29 yard touchdown to regain the lead for the visitors, 20-17. Then, with only a minute tone in the fourth, Vanhee picked off an errant Kauffman pass and raced 79 yards for a touchdown to up the lead to 26-17.
Neither team could gain any momentum the rest of the way and De Ruyter killed all hopes for Israel stepping in front of Katzir with less than two minutes to go, and taking the interceptions 40 yards to extend the lead to 32-17.
With just over 40 seconds left, Sklar picked off Van Compernolle, taking the ball back 35 yards to end the scoring.
Belgium, 1-0 now faces Team Hungary on October 26 in Group B action. With the loss, Israel is now 1-1.