Underdogs, Swarm notch key victories as Israel Football League enters home stretch

With only three weeks remaining in the Israel Football League, each game is of crucial importance for playoff contention.

This past weekend, The Haifa Underdogs took a big step to stay alive in edging the Judean Rebels, while the Tel Aviv Pioneers handled the Ramat HaSharon Hammers and the Beersheva Black Swarm downed the winless Mazkeret Batya Silverbacks

Haifa ‘Nemo’s’ Underdogs 27 (2-3) – Judean Rebels (1-5) 20 

Photo: Rick Blumsack

The Rebels got off to a quick start, as Jeff Balaban found TE Zev Katz for a 51-yard touchdown on the second play from scrimmage, 6-0 Rebels. The Underdogs answered with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Matt Kauffman to TE Amitai Chubinski, 7-6 Underdogs.

Haifa’s Amit Halberthal intercepted Balaban’s pass, but the Underdogs turned the ball over on downs. Balaban threw a short pass to Yehuda Mendlowitz who ran 26 yards for a Rebels’ TD (14-7) and Kauffman answered with a 3-yard TD pass to Matan Fourier, 14-13. The Rebels turned the ball over on downs, but Haifa’s Ilya Averbuch missed a 43-yard field goal. Shmuel Gallor and Evyatar Cohen sacked Kauffman on fourth down, Mica Allon broke up Balaban’s 4th-down pass, and Chaim Aaron intercepted Kauffman’s pass attempt on the final play of the half.

Big Mike Gondelman strip-sacked Kauffman to start the second half, but Guy Halberthal picked off Balaban’s pass three plays later. Aaron picked Kauffman off again after a 14-play Haifa drive, but the Rebels went 4-and-out. Kauffman took in a keeper to take the lead at 20-14 on the first play of the 4th quarter. The Rebels turned the ball over on downs, and Kauffman found Chubinski in the end-zone to take a 2-possession lead (27-14) with 3:25 to play. Balaban found Yoel Hughes for a long score, making it a 1-possession game with 1:46 to play (27-20), but Haifa recovered the ensuing onside kick and held on to win.

Individual performances


Kauffman completed 19/31 passes for 206 yards, 3 scores and 2 picks plus a rushing TD. Chubinski caught 8-98-2 and Ron Dafni rushed 19 times for 56 yards. Mica Allon racked up 16 tackles with 1.5 TFL and a break-up, and Rudy Rattner added 5 tackles, 3 TFL and a sack.


Balaban completed 12 /23 passes for 186 yards, 3 scores and 2 picks, adding 24 yards on the ground. Katz caught 4-93-1 and Avi Landesman rushed 13 times for 99 yards. Chesky Tomor had 11 tackles (1.5 TFL), Aaron had 10 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 picks and a blocked extra point.

The Underdogs play the Lions on Thursday night, and the Rebels have a week off before playing the Silverbacks.

Tel Aviv Pioneers (5-2) 34 – Ramat HaSharon Hammers (4-3) 14

The teams exchanged punts to start the game, before Yuval Fenta took a pitch 33 yards to the house for an 8-0 Pioneers lead. The Hammers turned the ball over on downs but the Pioneers punted the ball away to start the second quarter. Jonathan Curran passed to TE Adam Davis to tie the game at 8, and the Pioneers punted again. The Hammers turned the ball over on downs and QB Steve Markoe took in a keeper with 20 seconds to go, to give the Pioneers a 14-8 halftime lead.

After a Hammers punt, Markoe threw a screen pass the Fenta who took it 43 yards to the house, 20-8. The Hammers drove the field, capping off the drive with a 2-yard Ben Landon run, 20-14. Cameron Simmonds threw a touchdown pass to Amit Kolton at the beginning of the fourth quarter (26-14), and after a Hammer punt, Fenta ran 34 yards for a touchdown, 34-14. Ramat HaSharon turned the ball over on downs and Tel Aviv punted again before the end of the game.

Individual performances


Markoe completed 6/17 passes for 122 and a score, and Simmonds was 3/6 for 33 yards and a score. Fenta rushed 10 times for 118 yards and 2 scores, adding a catch for 43 yards and a score. Nimrod Pintel caught 3-62 and Kolton had 2-17-1. Asaf Katz had 8 tackles and a TFL, and Nerya Busi had 6, a TFL and a forced fumble.


Curran completed 11/33 passes for 116 yards and a score, though he was plagued by drops by his receivers, and lead the team with 39 yards rushing. Landon caught 5-53 and Nachi Brodt added 4-46. Elya Hershkovitz lead the defense with 6 tackles and a breakup, and Yair Ben-Moshe had 4 and half a sack.

Both teams will be on the road this week. The Hammers face the Troopers on Friday morning and the Pioneers will travel south to Beersheva on Saturday night.

Beersheva Black Swarm (2-4) 30 – Mazkeret Batya ‘Pointer’ Silverbacks (0-8) 20

Photo: Vova Jandarmov

Beersheva got off to a good start as Ronnie Hayes took a hand off into the end-zone from 5 yards out, putting the hosts ahead 6-0. The Silverbacks answered with an 8-play drive which ended with an Ohad Samuely TD run, 6-all. The ‘Backs Daniel Cohen picked off a Matanel Katz pass and Samuely ran in another one, this one from 46 yards out, 14-6 Silverbacks.

The Silverbacks recovered an onside kick, but punted the ball away. Aviram Johnson forced and recovered a Hayes fumble at the beginning of the second quarter, but the ‘Backs punted again. Beersheva turned the ball over on downs, Mazkeret Batya punted, and Katz found Hayes in the end-zone for a score with 56 seconds to play in the half, to tie the game at 14. Gal Dagan fumbled the ball, and Yaniv Knobel recovered for the Swarm, setting up a go-ahead TD pass from Katz to Tomare Curran just before the end of the half, 20-14 Beersheva.

Edi Peru recovered another Silverbacks fumble, but the Swarm turned the ball over on downs. A bad snap went over Samuely’s head and he fell on it for a safety, 22-14. The teams exchanged punts to end the third quarter, and Shahar Lasko forced a Beersheva fumble which Evyatar HaCohen recovered for the ‘Backs. Samuely lost a fumble to Knobel, and Beersheva seemed to put a nail in the coffin with a 56-yard catch-and-run from Katz to Hayes with 1:30 to go, 30-14.

The Silverbacks wouldn’t go down without a fight, as Tim Plotkin threw a 31-yard pass to Samuely with 1:03 to play to bring the ‘Backs within 10, 30-20. Beersheva recovered the onside kick and knelt out the game.

Individual performances


Katz completed 11/21 passes for 154 yards, 3 scores, and a pick, adding 32 yards on the ground. Hayes went 7-71-1 rushing and 9-131-2 receiving for the Swarm. Tal Biton added 5 -46 rushing. Sandro Kalandadze lead the defense with 8 tackles, 2.5 TFL and 1.5 sacks. Seena Abass added 5 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a knockdown.


Samuely rushed 19 times for 109 yards and 2 scores, as well as a catch for 31 yards and a score. Plotkin completed 2/3 passes for 40 yards and a score and Dagan added 10 carries for 42 yards. Michael Slabodkin registered 9 tackles and 3 TFL. Johnson added 8 tackles, a sack, a fumble recovery, a breakup and a forced fumble.

The Swarm host the Pioneers this Saturday night, and the Silverbacks have a week off.