Jerusalem Lions clinch 1st seed as playoffs loom in Israel; Haifa Underdogs secure 5th

As the Kraft Family Israel Football League playoffs loom larger, every game has playoff implications. On Thursday night, the Judean Rebels inched closer to clinching the #2 seed with a 72-54 victory over the Petah Tikva Troopers. On Friday morning, the Haifa ‘Nemo’s’ Underdogs clinched at least the #5 seed with a 20-8 win over the Beersheva Black Swarm. With a 52-34 victory on Saturday night over the Tel Aviv Pioneers, the defending champion Jerusalem ‘Big Blue’ Lions clinched the #1 seed as they prepare their title defense.

Judean Rebels 72 – Petah Tikva Troopers 54

Game Broadcast by Midabrim Communications

The Rebels got rolling quickly as Yehuda Mendlowitz found Aviad Kalifa for a 38-yard touchdown less than 1 minute into the game, 8-0. The Rebels converted an onside kick and scored again on the very next play (Mendlo to Zevi Katz), 14-0 just 1:04 into play. The Troopers punted and the Judeans turned the ball over on downs. Former Rebels Avrami Farkas and Gideon Reiz connected for a score (14-8) and Mendlowitz and Katz connected for another score 22-8. The Rebels’ Evyatar Cohen recovered a Farkas fumble, but Yoav Romem picked off a Mendlowitz pass on the first play of the second quarter, and Farkas passed to Jesse Hartman for a touchdown, 22-16.

The teams exchanged punts and the Rebels went on an 11-play, 74 yard drive which ended with an Omree Gottlieb touchdown run, 30-16. Petah Tikva turned the ball over in the red-zone, but the Rebels were called for a chop-block penalty in the end zone, giving the Troopers a safety, 30-18. Farkas passed to Hartman for another score, 30-26, but Chesky Tomor returned the ensuing kickoff 70 yards for a score, 36-26. Shalom Mackowitz sacked Farkas to run out the first half.

The Troopers turned the ball over on downs, and Mendlowitz ran 39 yards up the left sideline for another score, 44-26. The Rebels recovered another onside kick, but turned the ball over on downs in the red zone. Tomor intercepted a Farkas pass and returned it 40 yards for a score, 52-26. Farkas hit Reiz for a score just before the end of the third, 52-34. Ari Gold ran in a Rebel score, 58-34, Tomer intercepted another Farkas pass, and David Eastman intercepted a Mendlowitz pass.

The Troopers turned the ball over on downs, and Mendlowitz found Yoel Hughes for a score, 66-34 with under 5 minutes to play. The Troopers wouldn’t go away, however, and Avi Kol El ran in a score a minute later, 66-40. Tomor returned another pick of Farkas back for a score, 72-40 with 3 minutes to play. Farkas passed to Reiz for a score, 72-48, and the Rebels turned the ball over on downs. Farkas hit Reiz for another score, 72-54, before the Rebels knelt out the clock.

Individual performances


Mendlowitz completed 14/26 passes for 318 yards, 4 scores and 2 picks, adding 51 yards and a score on the ground. Hughes caught 6-153-1 and Katz caught 4-103-2. Jason Hess had 10 tackles, 1.5 TFL and 2 break-ups. Tomor had 6 tackles, 3 break-ups and 3 INTs (2 returned for scores), and Eran Roi registered 4 tackles and a record-tying 5 break-ups.


Farkas attempted a record 54 pass attempts, completing 24 for 376 yards (3rd all-time), 6 touchdowns and 3 picks. Kol El rushed for 59 yards and a score, while Reiz caught 7-94-4 and Hartman caught 9-184-2. On defense, Enrique Roth had 8 tackles and a TFL and Avi Rosenblum had 7 and half a sack.

The Rebels (6-2) host the Pioneers this Thursday and can clinch the #2 seed with a win OR a win vs. Haifa in 2 weeks OR a Lions win vs. the Pioneers in 2 weeks. The Troopers (3-5) are currently in 5th place, but could climb as high as 3rd if they win out and Tel Aviv loses out. If the Troopers lose out AND Beersheva wins out AND they lose tie-breakers to Beersheva and Mazkeret Batya, they could still technically find themselves out of the playoffs, though it does seem unlikely.

Jerusalem ‘Big Blue’ Lions 52 – Tel Aviv Pioneers 34

All photos: Daniella Dolgin and Eli Goldrich

Tel Aviv started the game off with a Yuval Fenta touchdown run (8-0) and David Abell tied the game at 8 with a TD pass to Misha Belov. The Pios turned the ball over on downs and Abell found Alan Tover for the lead, 16-8. Omri Mizrachi hit Shachar Regev for a TD on the first play of the second frame (16-all), and Abell found Tover for another score, 22-16. Regev tied the game at 22 by returning the ensuing kick 74 yards to the house. Abell hit Ezzy Jaski for a score two plays later (30-22), the Pios punted, and Abell hit Jaski for another score, 38-22. Fenta ran in another score with under 2 minutes to play in the half, 38-28. The Lions turned the ball over on downs, but Nachi Brodt picked off a Mizrachi pass before the half.

Jaski Photo: Daniella Dolgin

Jerome Wojtalik carried the ball 3 straight times for 62 yards and a Lions TD (46-28), and a Yoni Cooper sack forced a Tel Aviv punt. Ezzy Jaski threw a screen pass to Abell, who took it 70 yards to the house, 52-28. The Pios turned he ball over on downs, and Hillel Goldstein missed a field goal after a 13-play Lions drive. A 9-play Pioneers drive ended with a TD pass from Mizrachi to Regev, 52-34.Nadav Eliraz intercepted a pass attempt by Moshe Shear, but despite a successful fake punt Tel Aviv couldn’t make the score any closer.

Individual performances


Abell completed 9/16 passes for 194 yards and 5 TDs in one half at the helm, as well as catching 2 passes for 88 yards and a score. Wojtalik rushed 11-127-1 and Jaski caught 5-147-2. Leor Markose had 6 tackles and 2 break-ups, Cooper had 5 and a sack and Effi Mishaan had 4 and 2 break-ups.


Mizrachi completed 12/27 passes for a career-high 255 yards, 2 scores and a pick. Fenta rushed 14-130-2, Regev caught 4-108-2 and Nerya Busi caught 5-127. Or Shalom lead the defense with 13 tackles and a sack and Eliraz had 5, 2 break-ups and an INT.

The Lions (8-0) have clinched the #1 seed in the upcoming playoffs.The Pioneers (4-4) are currently in 3rd place, but could finish 2nd (if they win out and the Rebels lose out, and they beat the Rebels by more than 6 points) or fall as far as 5th, if they lose out and Haifa and Petah Tikva win out.

Haifa ‘Nemo’s’ Underdogs 20 – Beersheva Black Swarm 8

The Swarm went up 8-0 on the first play from scrimmage on a 59-yard catch-and-run from Matanel Katz to Ronnie Hayes. Ehud Klein intercepted a pass by Haifa’s Ron Dafni, but the Swarm turned the ball over on downs. Dafni threw a 33-yard TD pass to Harrison Duke-Fearnley (8-7), and the Swarm turned the ball over on downs again. Dafni threw a TD pass to Chubinsky (14-8), Beersheva punted, and Dafni threw a TD pass to Matan Fourier, 20-8 with just under 4 minutes to play in the half. Beersheva drove the field, but a bad snap ran the clock out on their 9-play drive.

Katz came in on D for Beersheva and intercepted a Dafni pass, but they ended up punting.The teams exchanged punts and Elior Kanfi missed a 38-yard field goal attempt for Haifa. Beersheva turned the ball over on downs, as did Haifa with 8 minutes left. Fourier intercepted a Katz pass, Katz intercepted a Dafni pass and then Nabil Khourry intercepted another Katz pass with 3:48 to play.Beersheva stopped Haifa on downs with 1 minute to play but Rudy Rattner strip-sacked Katz, recovering the ball himself to clinch the ‘W’ for Haifa.

Individual performances


Dafni completed 12/21 passes for 147 yards, 3 scores and 3 picks. Hillel Meran rushed for 58 yards and Chubinsky caught 4-51-1. Rattner had 7 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery, and Mica Allon added 4 and a break-up.

Black Swarm

Katz completed 11/26 passes for 130 yards, a score and 2 picks, adding 16 yards rushing, plus 2 picks and a break-up on defense.Hayes caught 7-103-1. Sandro Kalandadze lead the defense with 9 tackles and Klein added 7 and a pick.

Haifa has clinched at least the #5 seed in the playoffs, and could get as high as #3 if they win out AND Tel Aviv loses out AND Petah Tikva loses out. They would lose a tie-breaker to either of those teams. Beersheva is currently on the outside looking in and needs a win vs. Petah Tikva AND a win vs. Mazkeret Batya, or in case of a loss vs. Petah Tikva, hope that Mazkeret Batya loses to the Lions AND then beat Mazkeret Batya by 35 points or more.