Israel: Judean Rebels clinch 2nd seed with epic comeback

The penultimate full week of games in the Kraft Family Israel Football League was an exciting one! On Thursday night, the Judean Rebels clinched the #2 seed as they overcame a 26-8 3rd-quarter deficit, scoring 30 unanswered points to defeat the Tel Aviv Pioneers 38-26. In a back-and-forth affair on Friday morning, the Petah Tikva Troopers held off the Beersheva Black Swarm 34-30, staying in the race for a first-round home game, and pushing Beersheva to the brink of elimination. Also on Friday morning, the Jerusalem ‘Big Blue’ Lions took care of business, defeating the Mazkeret Batya ‘Rose Valley Crossfit’ Silverbacks 36-21 to remain undefeated.

Judean Rebels 38 – Tel Aviv Pioneers 26

The Rebels started the game with a turnover on downs and Omri Mizrachi threw a goal-line pick to Chesky Tomor.Yehuda Mendlowitz threw a 61-yard catch-and-run touchdown to Yoel Hughes, putting the Judeans up 8-0. The Rebels converted an onside kick, but Nadav Eliraz intercepted a Mendlowitz pass. Yuval Fenta lead the Pioneers downfield, scoring on a 9-yard touchdown run, 8-6. The Rebels turned the ball over on downs and the Pioneers punted. Two straight Pioneer sacks of Mendlowitz forced a Rebels punt, and the offense capitalized with another Fenta scoring run, 14-8. Kevin Hushie intercepted a Mendlowitz pass and Omri Mizrachi took the ball into the end-zone himself, 20-8. Ziv Weinberg recovered a Rebels fumble, but both teams turned the ball over on downs before the half.

The Rebels converted another onside kick but turned the ball over on downs. The Pioneers went on a 12-play drive, giving them a 3-score lead on Fenta’s 3rd TD of the evening 26-8 with 5:20 left in the 3rd quarter. Eliraz picked off another Mendlowitz pass, but Tomor answered with his second pick of the night, returning this one 54 yards for a score, 26-16. Tel Aviv turned the ball over on downs, and Mendlowitz threw a short TD pass to Hughes to start the 4th quarter, 26-24. Fenta was a yard short on 4th down and two long completions by Mendlowitz set up a short TD pass to Zevi Katz, 30-26 with 6:36 to play. The Pios went 4-and-out, and on the very next play Mendlowitz threw a 37-yard touchdown to Katz, 38-26 with 4:51 to play. Tel Aviv got great field position but Mizrachi threw 4 straight incompletions. The Rebels turned the ball over on downs, but Rafi Friedman picked off Mizrachi, sealing the comeback win for the Judeans.

Individual performances


Mendlowitz completed 19/32 passes for 313 yards, 4 scores and 3 picks. Hughes caught 4-131-2, Katz caught 4-71-2 and Daniel Yerushalmi caught 10-113. Jason Hess had 10 tackles for the defense, Shalom Mackowitz had 7, 3 TFL and 2 break-ups and Tomor had 6, 3 break-ups and 2 picks (1 TD).


Mizrachi completed just 6/36 passes for 67 yards and 3 interceptions, with a rushing touchdown. Fenta tied a league record with 34 carries, for 190 yards and 3 scores. Nerya Busi caught 4-59. Asaf Katz had 5 tackles, 2 TFL, a sack and a break-up. Eliraz had 4, 2 picks and a break-up and Amit Militanu added 4 and 2 sacks.

The Rebels clinched the #2 seed with the victory. The playoff scenarios for the Pioneers are as follows:

#3 seed with win over Lions.
#4 seed with loss to Lions AND (Troopers loss to Beersheva OR Haifa loss to Rebels).
#5 seed with loss to Lions AND Beersheva win over Troopers AND Haifa win over Rebels.

Jerusalem ‘Big Blue’ Lions 36 – Mazkeret Batya ‘Rose Valley Crossfit’ Silverbacks 21

Photo: Daniella Dolgin

Ido Eisikovits passed to Maxim Levin to put the Silverbacks on the board first, 7-0. At the end of a 12-play drive the Lions lined up for a field goal, but a wobbly snap lead to a turnover on downs. The Silverbacks punted, and Ezzy Jaski, filling in for the absent David Abell, passed to Nechemia Kaplinsky for a touchdown, 7-6. The Silverbacks punted again, and Tani Aronin ran in a score for the Lions before the half, 14-7.

Jaski (88) Credit: Daniella Dolgin

The Lions started the half with a 14-play drive that took 7-and-a-half minutes off the clock and capped it off with a Jaski touchdown run, 20-7. On the very next play Eisikovits threw a pass to Rotem Oz which the latter caught after it was tipped by the defense, and ran it all the way for a 60-yard touchdown, 20-14. At the end of a 10-play drive, Jaski threw another TD to Kaplinsky, 28-14. Ohad Samuely ran in a touchdown for Mazkeret Batya with 6 minutes to play, 28-21, and Jaski answered with a 39-yard touchdown run, 36-21. Binyamin Schultz intercepted an Eisikovits pass to end the game.

Individual performances


Jaski completed 16/25 passes for 130 yards and 2 scores, adding 104 yards and 2 scores on the ground. Kaplinsky caught 9-108-2 and Aronin rushed for 11-51-1. Shlomo Schultz had 8 tackles on defense and special teams, and Itzik Siegel added 4.


Eisikovits completed 9/18 passes for 126 yards, 2 scores and a pick. Ohad Samuely rushed for 11-60-1 and Levin caught 4-41-1. Roi Artzi had 10 tackles, Aviram Johnson had 8 and 1.5 TFL and Mark Samarsky had 5 and 2 break-ups.

The Lions play the Pioneers next week in their regular-season finale. The Silverbacks have 2 games left – vs. Petah Tikva and Beersheva- and 1 win OR a loss to Beersheva by less than 35 points is enough for them to clinch the first playoff berth in franchise history.

Petah Tikva Troopers 34 – Beersheva Black Swarm 30

The game on Friday morning was an exciting, back-and-forth affair, and the Troopers came out on top, pushing the Black Swarm to the brink of elimination from playoff contention.

Petah Tikva turned the ball over on downs, and Matanel Katz passed to Ronnie Hayes to open up the scoring, 6-0. The Troopers countered with a 12-play, 72-yard drive, which Avrami Farkas ended with a scoring pass to Avraham Kol El, 6-6. Nadav Eliyahu picked of a Farkas pass and ran it back 46 yards, setting up a Katz touchdown run, 12-6, and 4 crazy minutes. Gideon Reiz fumbled the ball and Ben Rahamim recovered for Beersheva, setting up a TD pass from Katz to Ronen Knobel, 18-6. Chris Daves returned the ensuing kickoff 68 yards for a touchdown, 18-14, and Ronnie Hayes returned the ensuing kickoff 70 yards for a touchdown of his own (!), 24-14. On Petah Tikva’s next play from scrimmage, Farkas found Reiz for a 40-yard touchdown pass, 24-20. Beersheva punted, and Chris Daves tacked on another rushing touchdown with a minute left in the half, 26-24. Reiz intercepted a Katz pass, but Katz broke up a pass intended for Reiz as time expired in the first half.

The Swarm turned the ball over on downs to start the second half, and the Troopers punted. A Beersheva drive that took almost 6 minutes off the clock ended with a Katz touchdown pass to Knobel, giving the guests a 30-26 lead. Ben Rahamim picked off a Farkas pass but the Swarm punted. Chris Daves rushed for the go-ahead score, 34-30 with 9 minutes left. Enrique Roth picked off a Katz pass but the Troopers punted. The Swarm drove the field looking to win the game, but another Reiz pick off of Katz sealed the ‘W’ for Petah Tikva.

Individual performances


Farkas completed 18/32 passes for 243 yards, 2 scores and 2 picks. Reiz caught 7-136-1, and Daves rushed for 2-20-2 as well as a kick return touchdown. On defense, Anthony Morales had 6 tackles and 1.5 TFL and Ahmed Abu Gaber had 4, 2.5 TFL and a sack.

Black Swarm

Katz completed 13/30 passes for 173 yards, 3 scores and 3 picks, adding 49 yards and a score on the ground. Knobel caught 3-66-2 and Hayes caught 4-59-1. Sandro Kalandadze and Michael Witman each had 3 tackles and a TFL, and Katz had 3 and 2 break-ups.

The scenarios for Petah Tikva are as follows:

Clinch #3 with a Lions win over the Pioneers AND win over Mazkeret Batya.
Clinch #4 with win over Mazkeret Batya OR loss to Mazkeret Batya AND Haifa loss to Rebels.
Fall to #5 with loss to Mazkeret Batya AND Haifa win over Rebels.

Beersheva needs Petah Tikva to beat Mazkeret Batya AND to beat Mazkeret Batya by at least 35 points in order to make the playoffs.