Final Weekend Of Regular Season in Israel Nail Biting

The final weekend of the 2015-2016 Kraft Family Israel Football League is in the books, and seedings were set only at the end of the final game!

On Thursday night in Ramat HaSharon, the host ‘Mike’s Place’ Hammers clinched the #5 seed while sending the Mazkeret Batya ‘Pointer’ Silverbacks home. On Friday in Kiryat Yam, the Jerusalem ‘Big Blue’ Lions clinched the #2 seed with an all-around victory over the Haifa ‘Nemo’s’ Underdogs. On Saturday night in Maaleh Adumim, the Judean Rebels clinched the #1 seed for the third straight season as they defeated the Tel Aviv ‘Hotel Gilgal’ Pioneers.

Thus the final seedings are set:

  1. Judean Rebels
  2. Jerusalem Lions
  3. Tel Aviv Pioneers
  4. Haifa Underdogs
  5. Ramat HaSharon Hammers
  6. Beersheva Black Swarm

In the wild card round next week, the 3rd-seeded Pioneers will host the 6th seeded Black Swarm, and the 4th-seeded Underdogs will host the 5th-seeded Hammers. In the semi-finals the following week, the top-seeded Rebels will host the lowest remaining seed, while the 2nd-seeded Lions will host the highest remaining seed after the wild card weekend. Israel Bowl IX will take place on Thursday, April 14th, in Petah Tikva. Stay tuned for the final dates and times for each of the upcoming games.

Ramat HaSharon ‘Mike’s Place’ Hammers 46 – Mazkeret Batya ‘Pointer’ Silverbacks 17

Israel - Hammers-Silverbacks 2016.3

Photo: Dotan Doron

The stakes were high on Thursday night as the winner of the game would make it to the dance and the loser would go home early.

It took the Hammers about 2 minutes to score, as quarterback Adi Hakami found Jonathan Curran for a 29-yard touchdown pass, 8-0. The ‘Backs went 3-and-out, and Hakami found veteran tight end Liran Galili for a 38-yard score, 16-0. Mazkeret Batya answered with a 36-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ido Eisikovits to Rotem Oz, 16-7, and a Hammers punt brought the first quarter to a close. Eisikovits connected with Oz for a 49-yard score (16-14), and Hakami-to-Curran answered with a 27-yard score (22-14). The Silverbacks punted again, , Hakami connected with Nachi Brodt for a 19-yard score, 28-14, and ‘Backs kicker Tomer Hazan drilled a 34-yard field goal as time expired in the first half. 28-17 at the break.

Mazkeret Batya started the half with a punt, and Hakami-to-Curran went for another score, this one from 9-yards out, 34-17. Hazan missed a 46-yard field goal, but Evyatar HaCohen stripped Hakami of the ball and his teammate Vassily Zaks recovered. The visitors went 4-and-out as the 4th quarter got underway. Jonathan Curran had the ball stripped by Lior Agami (recovered by teammate Eyal Frank), but Eisikovits’s pass was picked off by Amit Twig on the very next play. Hakami found Brodt for a 22-yard score, 40-17, and after a Silverbacks punt Hakami found Curran for a 53-yard catch-and-run, 46-17, with just under two minutes to go.

The Silverbacks couldn’t get on the board anymore, and the Hammers clinched the fifth seed and the final ticket to the dance.

Individual performances

Hakami did virtually whatever he wanted in the air, as he finished with an IFL single game record 391 yards on 22/32 passing with 7 touchdowns (tied-2nd). Curran finished with an IFL single game record 213 yards receiving to go along with 4 touchdowns on 10 catches. Brodt added 6 catches for 97 yards and 2 scores, while Adam Kima had 20 yards on the ground. Twig had 9 tackles, along with a pick and a breakup, Chanina Landesman had 9 tackles (1 TFL) and Yair Ben-Moshe had 8 tackles.

Eisikovits went 15/28 for 166 yards, 2 touchdowns and a pick. Rotem Oz caught 11 passes for 143 of those yards, along with both scores. Ohad Samuely lead the ground attack with 39 yards. Tomer Hazan lead the defense with 9 tackles (1.5 TFL), and Ofri Launer added 5.

The Hammers will travel north to face the Haifa ‘Nemo’s’ Underdogs in a wild-card game next weekend. Exact date and time TBD.

Jerusalem ‘Big Blue’ Lions 42 – Haifa ‘Nemo’s’ Underdogs 26

Israel - Lions-Underdogs 2016.5

Photo: Neria Granevich

The winner of this game would earn a bye week and home-field advantage in the semifinals.

The Lions drove the field to start the game, but quarterback Binyamin Schultz lost a fumble in the red zone, and Haifa’s Nimrod Smith recovered at the 3. Haifa wound up punting and Schultz found star David Abell for a 21-yard touchdown, 6-0. Haifa answered immediately with a 52-yard pass from quarterback Matt Kauffman to tight end Amitai Chubinski, 7-6, but the Lions came right back with a 37-yard touchdown pass to Abell on 4th-and-8, 14-7.

Haifa replied in turn with another TD pass to Chubinski as the second quarter got started to tie the game at 14. Abell reclaimed the lead for the Lions at 22-14 on a nifty running play. The Underdogs drove the field but Kauffman’s pass was intercepted at the 1-yard line by Ori Refaelowitz. The Haifa defense forced a punt as did the Lions defense, but on this one Leib Sklar came in to block the punt and his brother Tzvi scooped up the ball and scored a touchdown for the visiting Jerusalemites, 28-14, with under 1:30 to play in the half.

On the next Haifa drive, it was (Leib) Sklar again who recovered a fumble forced by defensive tackle Yoav Prusak, but the Lions could not take advantage before the break.

Haifa came out of halftime slinging and Lions defensive end Yoni Cooper got his paws on one of Kauffman’s passes and took it 55 yards to the house, 34-14. The Lions defense forced a Haifa punt, but defensive back Amit Benvenisti intercepted a Lions pass to get the ball back for the Underdogs.

The offense came on and drove the field, and finished the drive with a 3-yard pass from Kauffman to Smith on 4th-and-goal, 34-20. Aaron Stefansky burst the Haifa bubble by taking the ensuing kickoff to the house, 42-20, just before the end of the third frame. The Lions sacked Kauffman twice within three plays, including on 4th down, to retake possession, but Guy Halberthal broke up a Schultz 4th-down pass to get the ball back for the hosts.

Kauffman threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to tight end Amit Kolton to bring the Underdogs to within 2 scores with 2 minutes to go, 42-26, but Cooper recovered the onside kick and one first down was all the Lions needed to end the game and clinch the #2 seed.

Schultz finished with 5/10 for 127 and 2 scores and rushed for 39 yards, while Abell caught 4 passes for 112 yards and both scores and rushed 11 times for 90 yards and another score. Neria Granevich rushed for 33 yards and had another 20 yards receiving. On defense, there were a number of standouts for the Lions. Mordy Charnowitz racked up 18 tackles (1 TFL and half a sack), Leib Sklar had 9 tackles (3 TFL and 2 sacks) along with a fumble recovery and a blocked punt and Yoav Prusak had 7 tackles (2 TFL, 1.5 sacks) and a forced fumble.

Individual performances

Kauffman finished with 20/31 passing for 254 yards, 4 touchdowns and 2 picks. Chubinski caught 4-93-2 while Kolton caught 7-90-1. Ndavyah Williams finished with 65 rushing yards on 20 carries. Mica Allon had 16 tackles for the Haifa defense, Ilya Averbuch had 8 tackles and a strip-sack and Shai Rotbaum had 7 tackles and a TFL.

The Underdogs will host the Hammers next week for a wild-card game, while the Lions will host the highest remaining seed from the wild card round.

Judean Rebels 38 – Tel Aviv ‘Hotel Gilgal’ Pioneers 16

In this game as well as the Haifa-Jerusalem game, the winner would earn a bye week and home-field advantage in the semifinals.

The Pioneers started the game off with a punt, but the Rebels couldn’t turn a 10-play drive into points. The Pioneers then turned the ball over on downs as well, and as the second quarter got started Pioneers cornerback Elan Neiger intercepted a pass from Rebels quarterback, Chaim Schiff. The Pioneers ended up punting, and 8 plays later the Rebels scored the first points of the game on a pass from Schiff to Gideon Reiz, 6-0 with 5:10 to play in the half.

The Pioneers punted again, and Neiger intercepted Schiff again to give his team a short field. Ronny Moscona found Daniel Ben Zvi in the end-zone to put the Pioneers ahead 8-6 with 31 seconds to play in the half, but it took the Rebels exactly 2 plays and 22 seconds to go 62 yards and score, after a 26-yard run by Dani Eastman and a 36-yard TD pass from said Eastman to Chaim Aaron, 14-8 at the half.
It took the Rebels 3 plays to go 50 yards and score on a pass from Eastman to tight end Cole Kaiser (22-8) but the Pioneers answered right back with a 39-yard touchdown pass from Moscona to Nimrod Pintel, 22-16. After a long Rebel drive, Eastman connected again with Aaron for a 5-yard touchdown (30-16) and then intercepted a Moscona pass, before finding Reiz in the endzone for a 3-yard score, 38-16, right before the end of the third quarter.

The Pioneers put together a 12-play, 50-yard, 7:22-minute drive but could not turn it into points. Neiger got his third INT of the night, this one off of Eastman, but Yonatan Shavit fumble the ball back to the Rebels on the very next play. The Judeans turned the ball over on downs, but Tel Aviv was not able to score at the final buzzer.

Individual performances

Schiff was 9/20 for 121 yards, a TD and 2 picks before leaving the game. Eastman caught 5 passes for 72 yards and then proceeded to complete 10/12 passes for 133 yards, 4 TDs and a pick, as well as rushing 10 times for 96 yards. Aaron caught 6-81-2 and Reiz caught 5-64-2. Ami Notis had 5 tackles (2 TFL), a sack and a fumble recovery, Eastman added 5, a pick and a breakup and Paul Guerrero had 4 tackles and 2 sacks.

Moscona finished 8/19 for 133 yards, 2 scores and a pick plus 13 yards on the ground. Pintel had an impressive game with 6 catches for 103 yards and a score. Bar Soffer lead the ground game with 20 yards. Jason Leos lead the ‘D’ with 13 tackles and a breakup, Or Shalom had 8 tackles and Neiger had 5 tackles to go along with his 3 interceptions.

The Pioneers will host the Black Swarm next week for a wild-card game, while the Rebels will host the lowest remaining seed from the wild card round.

It’s playoff time!

Photo credit: Neria Granevich, Dotan Doron