Israel: Tel Aviv Pioneers eliminate Haifa Underdogs, Jerusalem Lions clinch #1 seed

The Kraft Family Israel Football League wound up the regular season with playoff berths and positioning up for grabs.

The Judean Rebels downed the Ramat HaSharon Hammers in overtime, the Petah Tikva ‘Mike’s Place’ Troopers blanked the  Beersheva Black Swarm, the  Tel Aviv Pioneers defeated the Haifa ‘Nemo’s’ Underdogs while the Jerusalem ‘Big Blue’ Lions overwhelmed the Mazkeret Batya ‘Pointer’ Silverbacks.

Judean Rebels 42 – Ramat HaSharon Hammers 36 (OT)

The teams came into the game knowing that regardless of the outcome, they will be facing each other this Thursday in the quarterfinals.

The Rebels had a long opening drive but turned the ball over on downs, and the Hammers scored on a long QB keeper by Jonathan Curran, 8-0. A long completion from Jeff Balaban to Yoel Hughes set up a QB run by the former, 8-8. Big Mike Gondelman stripped Adam Kima of the ball at the goal-line and recovered for the Rebels, setting up a 61-yard catch-and-run from Balaban to David Salem, 14-8. David Shatz intercepted a Curran pass, but Amit Twig returned the favor with an INT off Balaban on the first play of the second quarter. Kima ran in a Hammers score, tying the game at 14, and the Rebels punted. Curran ran in another score, making it a 22-14 game, and Twig intercepted another pass right before halftime.

The Hammers took a 2-score lead on a TD pass from Curran to Nachi Brodt (28-14), and the Rebels countered with a Chaim Aaron TD run, 28-20. Curran threw another TD to Brodt on the first play of the fourth quarter (36-20), and Aaron threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Balaban, 36-28. With just under 5 minutes to play, Shatz picked off another Curran pass, and Balaban ran in a touchdown as time expired, with Aaron diving in for the tying conversion.

And so the game went into overtime. The Rebels went first on offense, Aaron threw a touchdown pass to Balaban and the Rebels missed the conversion. The Hammers offense then took the field. Facing 4th-and-1, Curran threw a pass to TE Ido Eisikovits but Aaron broke up the pass, and the Judeans got the ‘W’.

Individual performances


Balaban completed 5/13 for 101 yards, a TD and a pick, as well as 29 yards and 2 rushing scores and 44 yards and 2 TDs receiving. Aaron completed 7/9 passes for 87 yards, 2 TDs and a pick, as well as 20 yards and 1 TD rushing, 4 tackles and a breakup. David Salem caught 5-86-1, and Avi Landesman rushed for 90 yards. Jeremiah Jelski had 8 tackles, Avraham Fisgus had 7 and 2 TFL and Shatz had 5 tackles, 2 picks and a break-up.


Curran completed 13/21 passes for 110 yards, 2 scores and 2 picks, as well as 82 yards and 2 scores on the ground. Brodt caught 5-48-2 and Kima rushed for 53 yards and a score. Ehud Klein had 8 tackles, Koby Maymon had 5 and 2 TFL, and Michael Witman had 5 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.

Petah Tikva ‘Mike’s Place’ Troopers 36 – Beersheva Black Swarm 0

Beersheva’s Tomare Curran intercepted Avrami Farkas’s pass on the first drive of the game, but ended up punting the ball away. Farkas found Gideon Reiz for an 18-yard TD (8-0). The teams exchanged tunrovers-on-downs, Beersheva punted, and Dani Eastman ran in another score, 14-0. The Swarm turned the ball over on downs, and Eastman caught a TD pass from Farkas right before the half, 22-0.

Beersheva punted to start the half, and Ohad Appelboim ran in another Trooper TD, 30-0. Beersheva punted again, and a nice return by Eastman set up an immediate TD pass from Farkas to Reiz, 36-0, before the end of the third quarter. The Swarm turned the ball over on downs, Petah Tikva lost a fumble after a long drive, and the Swarm wasn’t able to get on the scoreboard before the final whistle.

Individual performances


Farkas completed 12/23 passes for 206 yards, 3 TDs and a pick, as he set the new IFL single-season passing record, with 2,023 yards. Eastman rushed for 8-79-1 and caught 3-51-1, adding 4 tackles. Reiz caught 5-85-2. Luke Hutkin posted 10 tackles, 5.5 TFL, and 1.5 sacks, leading the defense once again.

Black Swarm

Matanel Katz completed 8/15 passes for 18 yards, adding 11 on the ground. Seena Abass caught 3-19, and Tal Biton added 15 yards on the ground. Roooke Ronen Cohen had 6 tackles, and Curran added 4 and a pick.
The Troopers earned the #2 seed and a bye week. The Swarm play Tel Aviv in the quarterfinals this Friday.

Jerusalem ‘Big Blue’ Lions 62 – Mazkeret Batya ‘Pointer’ Silverbacks 6

The teams exchanged punts to start the game, the Silverbacks punted again, and David Abell started the scoring with a touchdown pass to Misha Belov, 8-0.

The ‘Backs punted, but Ofri Launer forced a Lions and fumble and the defense recovered. A bad snap on a Mazkeret punt attempt set up a quick Abell-to-Belov touchdown (16-0) to start the second quarter, and rookie Leor Markose intercepted a Tim Plotkin pass, giving the ball back to Jerusalem. The teams exchanged punts and Abell ran in a keeper with 2 minutes to play in the half, 24-0. Mazkeret punted again, but Elad Illuz broke up Abell’s last second pass.

Ezzy Jaski took over the reins at quarterback in the second half and ran one in to make it 32-0. The Silverbacks got on the board with a 53-yard Gal Dagan run, 32-6. Eli Gurwitz ran in a score (40-6) and the ‘Backs turned the ball over on downs. Jaski took in another score (48-6), and on the first play of the 4th quarter Abell picked off a Plotkin pass and took it 51 yards to the house, 54-6. Mazkeret Batya turned the ball over on downs, and Belov ran in another score, 62-6.

Ohad Samuely got 6 carries on the final (fruitless) drive of the Silverbacks’ season, as he set the record for carries in a single game with 34.

Individual performances


Abell completed 9/17 passes for 116 yards and 2 scores, adding 53 yards and a score on the ground, as well as 2 tackles and a pick-6. Jaski caught for 71 yards, passed for 31 and ran for 73 and 2. Belov had 7-76-2 receiving and 23 yards and 1 TD rushing. The Lions defense racked up 15 tackles-for-loss. Leib Sklar had 9 tackles and 1.5 sacks and Amir Yaghmour had 7 and 1.5 TFL.


Samuely rushed 34 times for 93 yards, and Plotkin completed 2/9 for 21 yards and 2 picks. Dagan rushed for 5-70-1 as well as 16 yards receiving. Michael Slabodkin had 6 tackles, a breakup and a fumble recovery and Illuz had 5 and a break-up.
The Lions earned the #1 seed and a bye week, as they await the lowest-remaining seed from the first round. The Silverbacks head home for the off-season, with their eyes on next year.

Tel Aviv Pioneers 40 – Haifa ‘Nemo’s’ Underdogs 26

The Underdogs came into the game needing a win or a loss by up to 10 points in order to make the playoffs. They kept the game close the entire way but came up 4 points short.

Four Yuval Fenta carries set up a short TD pass from QB Steve Markoe to Nimrod Pintel for an early 8-0 Pioneers lead. Haifa turned the ball over on downs and Fenta ran one in himself, 14-0. Haifa answered with a 43-yard TD run by Hillel Meran, 14-7, and Yoni Janis picked off a Markoe pass for Haifa. The Underdogs punted the ball to start the second quarter, and Fenta ran in another TD, 20-7, and Haifa QB Matt Kauffman threw a touchdown pass to TE Amitai Chubinski, 20-14.

Markoe threw a TD pass to Nadav Navon (26-14), Haifa turned the ball over on downs, and Yair Zilbershtein intercepted another Markoe pass. This time Haifa was able to capitalize on the turnover, making the score 26-20 before the half, on a scoring pass from Kauffman to Tomer Friedler.

Haifa punted to start the half, and Markoe threw a TD pass to former Underdogs TE Amit Kolton, 32-20. Travis Mascitelli picked off a Kauffman pass but Friedler broke up Markoe’s 4th-down pass. Kauffman threw a touchdown to Matan Fourier, making it 32-26 in the fourth quarter, after an Asaf Katz extra-point block. Fourier then intercepted a Cam Simmonds pass, but Haifa punted and Markoe scored on a keeper, 40-26 with 1:41 to go and Haifa’s season on the line. Three Kauffman incompletions sandwiched around an Amit Militanu breakup gave Tel Aviv the victory and sent Haifa into the off-season.

Individual performances


Markoe completed 19/36 passes for 210 yards, 3 scores, 2 picks and a rushing TD. Fenta rushed 10 times for 125 yards and 2 scores, while Navon caught 2-67-1, Pintel 4-47-1 and Kolton 5-31-1. Militanu lead the defense with 9 tackles and a breakup. Nerya Busi had 7 tackles, 2.5 TFL and a sack, while Idan Melchior added 8 and a sack.


Kauffman completed 13/34 passes for 144 yards, 3 TDs and a pick. Chubinski caught 4-61-1 and Meran rushed 24 times for 131 yards and a score. Fourier lead the defense with 8 tackles and a pick, and Friedler added 6 and a breakup.

The Pioneers, who finished with the #3 seed, will host the 6th-seeded Beersheva Black Swarm in the quarterfinals this Friday in Tel Aviv.

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