Judean Rebels, Tel Aviv Pioneers advance to Israel’s semifinals

The 2016-2017 Kraft Family IFL Playoffs got started with a bang as the 5th-seeded Judean Rebels beat the 4th-seeded Ramat HaSharon Hammers on the road, and the heavy underdog #6 Beersheva Black Swarm gave the #3 Tel Aviv Pioneers a run for their money before succumbing to the favored Tel Avivians in a shootout.

Judean Rebels 36 – Ramat HaSharon Hammers 14

Photo: Daniella Dolgin


The Judean Rebels notched their 4th straight win, this one on the road against Ramat HaSharon.

The teams exchanged turnovers-on-downs and Amit Twig intercepted Chaim Aaron’s pass, but the Hammers had to punt. Jeff Balaban threw a touchdown pass to Yoel Hughes, giving the Rebels a 8-0 lead right before the end of the first quarter. Jeremiah Jelski sacked Jonathan Curran on 4th down, and Balaban threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Zevi Katz, 16-0. Curran passed a touchdown to Ben Landon, narrowing the deficit to 16-6 2:32 before the half. Matis Goldmeier picked off Balaban’s pass at the goal-line, but the Hammers weren’t able to get on the board again before halftime.

Jelski again sacked Curran on 4th down, and Aaron threw a touchdown pass to Balaban, who made a beautiful Holmes-esque toe-tap catch at the side of the end-zone, 24-6. Aaron recovered a Curran fumble before the end of the third quarter, and Balaban threw a 35-yard TD pass to Katz, 30-6, with 7:20 to play in the game. Landon threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to Curran, making it 30-14 with 6 minutes to play. The Rebels turned the ball over on downs, but their defense stopped the Ramat HaSharon offense on 4th down with 2:21 to play, and Balaban threw a touchdown pass to David Shatz before the end of the game, 36-14.

Individual performances


Balaban completed 8/12 passes for 178 yards, 4 scores, a pick and a receiving touchdown. Avi Landesman ran 16-62, and Katz caught 2-64-2. Jelski was a beat on defense, with 7 tackles, 5 TFL and 4 sacks, and Avraham Fisgus had 10 tackles, 2.5 TFL and a sack.


Curran completed 10/15 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown as well as 30 yards rushing and 1-56-1 receiving. Yohanan Dunietz rushed 13 times for 37 yards. Ehud Klein had 11 tackles and half a sack and Michael Witman had 9 tackles, 1.5 TFL and half a sack.

The Rebels play the Jerusalem Lions in the semifinals this Thursday night.

Tel Aviv Pioneers 68 – Beersheva Black Swarm 40

As the basketball score suggests, it was a Wild West-style shootout on Friday in Tel Aviv. Beersheva started off the scoring with a 9-yard TD pass from Matanel Katz to Ronnie Hayes (6-0), set up by a 58-yard Tomare Curran kickoff return . Yuval Fenta took 8 straight carries for 66 yards and a Tel Aviv touchdown (8-6). The teams exchanged turnovers-on-downs and on the first play of the second quarter, Katz found Hayes for a 51-yard catch-and-run to put the guests up 12-8. A 38-yard return by Nimrod Pintel set up a 39-yard touchdown run by Fenta (16-12), and the teams proceeded to exchange punts. The Swarm punted again before Fenta ran in his 3rd TD of the morning with 3:23 to play in the half (22-12). Pioneers’ defensive captain Asaf Katz picked off (Matanel) Katz’s pass, immediately setting up another Fenta TD (28-12). Katz connected with Hayes for a 32-yard TD right before the half, 28-18.

Pioneers’ QB Steve Markoe threw a 22-yard TD pass to Cameron Simmonds to start off the second half (36-18) and Katz answered with a 26-yard touchdown to Ronen Knobel, 36-26. Elan Neiger returned the ensuing kickoff to the house (44-26) and Beersheva countered with a 26-yard Katz-to-Hayes touchdown, 44-34. Markoe took in a touchdown himself (52-34) and Katz/Hayes answered with their 5th touchdown connection of the day, 52-40. The Pioneers started the 4th quarter off with a Markoe-to-Pintel touchdown pass (60-40) and 2 straight Pioneer sacks forced the Swarm to punt. Tel Aviv punted as well, but Beersheva turned the ball over on downs. Simmonds ran in the nail-in-the-coffin with 3:44 to go, 68-40.

Individual performances


Yuval Fenta had a monster game with a playoff record 259 yards and 4 touchdown on 27 carries. Markoe completed 8/17 passes for 130 yards, 2 scores and a rushing score. Pintel caught 3-60-1 and Simmonds had 2-30-1 and a rushing TD. Asaf Katz lead the defense with 9 tackles, 1 TFL and an INT, Amit Militanu had 8 tackles with 2.5 TFL and a sack, and Nerya Busi added 7 and a sack.

Black Swarm

Matanel Katz completed 14/21 passes for 255 yards, 6 touchdowns and an INT. Hayes had a monster game of his own with 9 catches for 177 yards and a playoff record 5 touchdowns. Tomare Curran lead the defense with 8 tackles, and Roi Artzi added 5 and a break-up.

The Pioneers are off to Petah Tikva to play the 2nd-seeded Troopers in the semi-finals this Friday.

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