Israel: Jerusalem Lions, Petah Tikva Troopers win nail biters

The Kraft Family Israel Football League had 2 out of three games go literally down to the wire. On Thursday night the Jerusalem ‘Big Blue’ Lions barely held off the Judean Rebels 20-16. On Friday in muddy Abu Snan, the Petah Tikva Troopers came back from a late 6-0 deficit to beat the Haifa ‘Nemo’s’ Underdogs 12-6 in overtime, and on Saturday night the Tel Aviv Pioneers soundly defeated the Mazkeret Batya ‘Rose Valley Crossfit’ Silverbacks 42-12.

Petah Tikva Troopers 12 – Haifa ‘Nemo’s’ Underdogs 6 (OT)

Photo: Sleeman Amer

The muddy Abu Snan field set the stage for #MudBowl2, and a wacky overtime comeback victory for the visiting Troopers.

The Troopers started off the game with a bad snap on a punt attempt giving Haifa the ball on the Petah Tikva 9-yard line, but Harrison Duke-Fearnley missed a 31-yard field goal attempt. The Troopers punted, and Hillel Meran ran in a touchdown for the host Underdogs, 6-0. Petah Tikva punted again, but Meran lost a fumble on the ‘Dogs very next play. The Troopers turned the ball over on downs right before the end of the first quarter, and the teams exchanged punts. Matis Goldmeier intercepted a pass by Haifa’s Ron Dafni, but the visitors couldn’t capitalize on the turnover. Haifa went on the longest drive of the game (11 plays) but lost a fumble on the 3-yard line before halftime.

Photo: Sleeman Amer

Pepe Bejar broke up a Dafni 4h-down pass, and Shaked Batat and Lee Shaked sacked PT’s Gideon Reiz on 4th down. Two straight PT sacks lead to a Haifa punt, but the Troopers punted again to start the 4th quarter. The teams exchanged punts again, and Meran lost a fumble to the Troopers’ David Eastman.

Petah Tikva evened the score at 6 with 5 minutes to play on a reverse pass from Avrami Farkas to Reiz. Haifa punted with 54 seconds to go but the game was far from over. Elior Kanfi intercepted a Reiz pass with 20 seconds to go, and after two timeouts and an incompletion, Haifa punted with only 10 seconds having gone off the clock. Avi Rosenblum threw up a prayer fro Petah Tikva and Yair Zilbershtein picked it off, giving Haifa a chance to win it on a field goal. Duke-Fearnley’s kick was short and Petah Tikva almost scored on a runback after Reiz lateraled to Rosenblum, but Rudy Rattner was able to trip him up and send the game to overtime.

Haifa got the ball first in overtime, but Duke-Fearnley missed another field goal. Petah Tikva got the ball, and converted a first down before Reiz scored the game-winner, 12-6.

Individual performances


Reiz didn’t complete an attempt (except to the other team), carried the ball 21 times for a total of 25 yards and the winning TD, along with catching the only Troopers completion of the day, 13 yards for a score. Avraham Kol El had 14 carries for 55 yards. Ahmed Abu Gaber lead the defense with 11 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks and a forced fumble. Eastman had 9 and 2 fumble recoveries, and Omer Kazarnovski had 5, 2 sacks and a forced fumble.


Dafni completed 9/22 passes for 105 yards and a pick, with Chubinski catching 3 for 35 and Hasson 2 for 44. Meran had 20 carries for 49 yards and a score, but also lost 2 fumbles. Rudy Rattner had 9 tackles, 3 TFL and a sack, Lee Shaked had 11 and half a sack and Shon Kibutzany added 5 and 2 sacks.

Haifa plays Beersheva this Saturday, looking to stay ahead of the Swarm in the standings, and the Troopers travel to Jerusalem next week to play the Rebels.

Jerusalem ‘Big Blue’ Lions 20 – Judean Rebels 16

The newest edition of the Jerusalem rivalry was played with a little bit of rain but a lot of wind, last Thursday night at the Kraft Family Sports Campus.

The Rebels went for it on 4th down deep in their own territory, giving the Lions the ball in the red-zone, but the Rebel D held fast. The Lions D forced a Rebels punt, and David Abell put the Lions on the board with a rushing TD just before the end of the first quarter, 6-0. The Judeans turned the ball over on downs, and Abell completed a touchdown pass to Moshe Shear, 12-0. Yehuda Mendlowitz threw a touchdown pass to Daniel Yerushalmi, narrowing the deficit to 12-8. Rafi Friedman intercepted an Abell pass, but the Rebels turned the ball over on downs and Abell found Jaski for another Lions score before the half, 20-8.

The teams exchanged turnovers on downs to start the second half, and Avraham Fisgus intercepted an Abell pass setting up a TD pass from Mendlowitz to Yoel Hughes before the end of the third, 20-16. The Lions turned the ball over on downs, but Shear intercepted a Mendlowitz pass with 6 minutes to play. The Rebels got the ball back with 3-and-a-half left and drove the field with an 8-play drive, including a critical defensive holding call on 4th down that gave them a new set of downs. But on their last chance, Avi Landesman slid to catch a low pass from Mendlowitz and couldn’t hold on, keeping the Lions undefeated.

Individual performances


Abell completed 13/25 passes for 64 yards, 2 scores and 2 picks, adding 16 yards and a score on the ground. Jerome Wojtalik lead the team in rushing (36) and receiving (48) yards. Tzvi Sklar registered 12 tackles, 5 TFL and a sack, and Saul Rothman had 8 tackles, 4.5 TFL and 3 sacks. Leor Markose added 6 and 2 break-ups.


Mendlowitz completed 9/19 passes for 96 yards, 2 scores and a pick. Omree Gottlieb lead the team in rushing with 45 yards on 13 carries and Zevi Katz caught 5-45. Ikey Bodner had 10 tackles, 2 TFL and a break-up, Katz had 5 and 1.5 sacks and Eran Roi had 4 and 3 break-ups.

Both teams have critical games next week. The Lions play the Pioneers on Saturday night and can clinch the #1 seed with a win. The Rebels host the Troopers on Thursday night and with a win they can guarantee at least the #3 seed, avoiding a potential rematch with the Lions until Israel Bowl XI.

Tel Aviv Pioneers 42 – Mazkeret Batya ‘Rose Valley Crossfit’ Silverbacks 12

Photo: Dvir Mintz

The Pioneers took the field looking to avenge their first-ever loss to the ‘Backs earlier in the season, and did so in style, ripping off their 4th consecutive win.

Mazkeret Batya started the game off with a punt, and Tel Aviv went on a 9-play drive culminating in a TD pass from Omri Mizrachi to Nerya Busi, 8-0. Ohad Samuely took the ensuing kickoff 70 yards to the house, making the score 8-6. The teams exchanged punts twice, and Mizrachi took in a keeper with 5:31 to play in the half, 14-6. Nadav Eliraz intercepted a pass by MB QB Ido Eisikovits, setting up another Mizrachi touchdown run, 20-6. Samuely took the ensuing kickoff 77 yards to the house, becoming the 4th player in IFL history to record 2 kickoff return touchdown in a single game, 20-12 at the break.

Photo: Dvir Mintz

The teams exchanged punts to start the second half and Mizrachi passed to Yuval Fenta for a touchdown, 28-12. Tel Aviv kicked the ball out of bounds, evidently trying to prevent Samuely from scoring again, and Amit Militanu recovered an Eisikovits fumble. Mizrachi passed to Shachar Regev for another score, 36-12. Samuely got another chance at a return but he lost the ball and Busi recovered for the Pioneers. Mizrachi was promptly intercepted by Sbacks rookie Jen Hilel, but the yellow offense turned the ball over on downs at the start of the fourth quarter. The Pios went on a 10-play drive, punctuated by a leaping Yuval Fenta touchdown run, 42-12. Mazkeret Batya punted, and Tel Aviv ran out the clock.

Individual performances


Mizrachi went 7/19 for 129 yards, 3 scores and a pick, adding 2 rushing touchdowns. Fenta had a ridiculous 33 carries for 215 yards and a score, adding 17 yards and a score in the air. Busi caught 2-46-1 in his pass-catching debut. Ziv Weinberg lead the defense with 6 tackles, Yohannes Okba had 5 and 1 TFL, and Militanu had 5 and a fumble recovery.


Eisikovits completed 4/14 passes for 48 yards and a pick. Gal Dagan had 36 yards rushing and Samuely had 31, in addition to his 185 KR yards, 3rd-highest all-time. Shiko Zano had 11 tackles and Vlad Patrati had 7 and a sack.

The Pioneers host the Lions next week, in a rematch of Israel Bowl X. The Silverbacks have an extra week of rest before hosting the same Lions on February 9th.