Jerusalem Lions, Tel Aviv Pioneers Advance to Israel Bowl X

The Jerusalem ‘Big Blue’ Lions and Tel Aviv Pioneers were victorious in their respective, hard-fought IFL semi-final games, and will face each other this Thursday night in Israel Bowl X.

Jerusalem ‘Big Blue’ Lions 42 – Judean Rebels 34

Photo: Daniella Dolgin

For the third time in IFL history, the local rivals met in the playoffs and for the third time the Rebels came in as the lower seed. This time, however, the Lions got the monkey off of their back as they held off the 5th-seeded Judeans to make it to Israel Bowl X.

Chesky Tomor returned the opening kickoff for a Rebels touchdown, but it was called back due to an Illegal-Block-in-the-Back penalty, and the Rebels had to punt. Lions’ QB David Abell ran in a touchdown to give the Lions an 8-0 lead, but the Rebels struck on their next offensive play as Jeff Balaban passed to Yonatan Assaraf for a 29-yard TD, 8-6. Hillel Goldstein ran in another Big Blue touchdown (16-6) and the Lions defense forced a Rebels’ turnover-on-downs in the red zone. Abell completed a short scoring pass to top target Ezzy Jaski, 24-6.

Rebels’ TE Zev Katz dropped a 4th-down pass in the end-zone, but good defense by the Rebels and costly penalties by the Lions forced a Jerusalem punt. Lions MLB Mordy Charnowitz intercepted Balaban’s pass, but Chesky Tomor sacked Abell on 4th-down on the last play of the half.

Photo: Daniella Dolgin

Binyamin Schultz ran in a TD after a long opening drive to put the Lions up 30-6. Lions’ veteran DE Yoni Cooper (who announced prior to the game that he would be retiring at the end of the season) forced a Balaban fumble at the goal-line but the ball rolled into the end-zone and was recovered by Rebels’ WR David Salem for a touchdown, 30-14, keeping the Rebels in the game.

Chaim Aaron intercepted Abell’s pass in the end-zone, but the Rebels were forced to punt just before the end of the third quarter. Aaron then stripped Abell of the ball, and teammate Mordy Tryfus recovered for the Judeans. Balaban passes to Yehuda Mendlowitz for 33 yards, setting the offense up at the 1-yard line, and Balaban ran in a score on 3rd down, 30-22 with 9:39 to play.

The Lions milked the clock and Abell ran in a score with 4:48 remaining, 36-22. Balaban found Katz for a 26-yard score with 3:39 to go, 36-28, and Abell found TE Yoni Rosenbaum on 4th down, 42-28 with 2:22 left. The Rebels kept clawing their way back, this time on a TD pass from Balaban to Mendlowitz with 58 seconds to play (42-34), but Cooper recovered the ensuing onside kick and the Lions advanced to the finals.

This is the Lions’ 5th trip to the Israel Bowl, though they’ve lost their last 3 appearances ever since a victory over the Haifa Underdogs in Israel Bowl I, including losses to the Pioneers in Israel Bowls II and VII.

Individual performances


Abell completed 15/25 passes for 182 yards, 2 scores and a pick, adding 85 yards and 2 scores on the ground. Jaski caught 10 passes for 124 yards and a score. Schultz lead the defense with 6 tackles, 1 TFL and 4 break-ups. Charnowitz had 6, 1.5 TFL and a pick and Cooper had 4 tackles, 2 sacks and a forced fumble.


Balaban had 14/26 passing for 213 yards, 2 scores and a pick, as well as 19 yards and a TD on the ground. Mendlowitz caught 6-60-1 and Assaraf caught 3-91-1. Eran Roi lead the defense with 8 tackles, Aaron had 7, a pick and a forced fumble, and Tomor finished with 6 tackles, a sack and a break-up.

Tel Aviv Pioneers 44 – Petah Tikva ‘Mike’s Place’ Troopers 32

The Troopers received a devastating blow last week, as superstar Dani Eastman broke his leg playing flag football. They fought valiantly despite Eastman’s absence, but succumbed to a dominant Tel Aviv running attack.
Aaron Karp played some wildcat QB for Petah Tikva, and ran in the first score of the game from that position just 36 seconds in to the game, 8-0. The Pioneers’ own superstar, RB Yuval Fenta, tied the game immediately with a rushing touchdown of his own, 8-8.

The teams exchanged punts, and QB Avrami Farkas found Karp in the end-zone, taking a 14-8 lead for Petah Tikva at the end of the first quarter. The Pioneers punted to start the second, and the Troopers turned the ball over on downs. Fenta tied the game at 14 with a 5-yard run, and scored again after an Or Shalom interception, 22-14. 3 straight Tel Aviv penalties gifted the Troopers 33 yards, and Farkas threw a touchdown pass to Danny Mikhailov, making it a 2-point game at 22-20, with 2:08 to play in the half. David Eastman forced a Nimrod Pintel fumble, and Anthony Morales recovered for the Troopers, setting the Troopers up to go ahead 26-22 with 2 seconds left, on a TD pass from Farkas to Gideon Reiz.

The Pioneers started the second half with a 12-play, six-and-a-half minute drive which ended in a Bar Rudich rushing touchdown, 30-26. The Troopers punted, and the Pioneers rode a 13-play, 5:43-long drive into the 4th quarter for another Fenta touchdown and a 36-26 lead. Farkas threw another touchdown pass to Karp, closing the Troopers to within 6, 36-32, with 5:51 to play. Fenta took in his 5th touchdown of the night with a minute to play (44-32), and after a sack and three incompletions, the Pioneers took a knee to punch their ticket to Israel Bowl X.

This is the Pioneers’ 4th straight Israel Bowl appearance and 6th total. They were victorious in Israel Bowls 2 and 7, over the same Jerusalem Lions whom they will be facing in Israel Bowl X.

Individual performances


Fenta had 37 carries for 222 yards and 5 touchdowns and Rudich was 9-58-1. Steve Markoe completed 3/11 passes for 28 yards. Nerya Busi lead the defense with 8 tackles , 3 TFL and 1.5 sacks and Elan Neiger added 4 tackles and 2 break-ups.


Farkas completed 15/30 passes for 222 yards, 4 TDs and a pick. Karp racked up 38 yards passing, 5-83-2 receiving and a rushing touchdown. Reiz caught 5-80-1 and Mikhailov caught 4-77-1. Ahmed Abu Gaber lead the defense with 15 tackles and Adi Badash and Luke Hutkin added 9 and 8, respectively.