IFL Israel Bowl III 311.
(photo credit: Rick Blumsack)
The fourth year of the Kraft Family Israel Football League gets under way
Thursday, and if the six preseason games were any indication, the 2010/11
campaign is primed to be one for the ages.
RELATED:Kings, Rebels triumph in exhibition finales Hammer hit the ground running with 44-44 tie
With the IFL’s now-eight teams
split into two divisions for the first time in league history, opening-night in
the capital will feature a Southern double-header bonanza, with a pair of
mouthwatering matchups to wet the palate for what is sure to be the start of 20
wild weeks of Israeli pigskin.
The Big Blue Jerusalem Lions – who have
been in all three Israel Bowls, albeit with “just” one title – get the action
started under the lights at Kraft Stadium on Thursday when they take on the Gush
Texas Judean Rebels, who were ousted in the semifinals last season by the
eventual champion Tel Aviv/Jaffa Sabres.
Both the Lions and Rebels were
gangbusters in both their respective preseason contests, combining to go a
perfect 4-0 and generally asserting their will against the
Each club brings plenty of offensive firepower into
Thursday’s opener, with the Lions spearheaded by quarterback Itay Ashkenazi and
his merry band of sure-handed receivers, and the Rebels paced by the
always-elusive Johnny Joe Martisius and golden-armed rookie field general Alex
The question is less about whether each team will be able to find
the endzone, and more about how both defensive units will fare in the face of
such a heavy onslaught.
In addition, plenty of highlights are sure to be
generated on the special- teams front, with the Rebels’ Jon Millar quickly
establishing himself as the IFL’s most dangerous kick returner, and Lions’
counterpart Ilya Pittel averaging a league-high 23 yards on run-backs in
It’s rare that the opening night of a regular season would feature
even one such intriguing battle. That the Papagaio Jerusalem Kings and Travel
Leaders Beersheva Black Swarm will be clashing immediately following
Lions-Rebels in Thursday’s finale adds another delicious layer to the dramatic
buildup of the evening.
The Kings had a roller-coast run to the
semifinals last season before being humbled by their city rivals, the Lions.
This year, they are intent on wresting back that Jerusalem crown from Big Blue
and got off to a good start with a tight, hardfought victory over the Real
Housing Haifa Underdogs in their lone exhibition affair.
Buoyed by the
sideline presence of incoming coach Hanan Stern and the on-field leadership of
veterans Shmuel Weisfeld, Ben Bloch and Ari Wasjbort, Papagaio has also
integrated what is sure to become a vital weapon into its offense, with former
rugby player David Brummer demonstrating his acumen in the kicking game with a
pair of field goals and an extra point in the preseason.
dimension may throw the Beersheva coaching staff for a bit of a loop as they
formulate their game-plan, although Michael Jones and his assistants are more
than up for rolling with the punches, as they demonstrated in a large
second-half comeback in what ended as a 44-44 preseason bout against the
expansion Theodor’s Herzliya Hammers.
The Black Swarm are still hungry
for their very first regular season victory as a franchise in this, their second
year in the IFL and they have fortified their corps of returning players with a
number of outstanding new athletes eager to prove their worth.
comes in under center with more confidence than ever and with a number of
downfield options for him to throw to. Couple that with the grinding running
style employed by the Beersheva backs and we could be in for a real late-night
Saturday evening will feature another scintillating
opening-weekend matchup, this one a North Division showdown between the most
recent two Israel Bowl champions, the Sabres and the Dancing Camel now-Tel Aviv
Pioneers, formerly of Modi’in.
Both teams have undergone tremendous
roster overhaul since they last suited up for meaningful games, with each
excited to unveil its new packages and schemes. That contest will be held in
Holon’s Hapoel Tel Aviv training grounds across from Wolfson Hospital, with an
8:45 p.m. scheduled kickoff.
The two IFL teams not in action this
weekend, the Underdogs and Hammers, will get their campaigns started next week,
but will certainly have scouting representatives in the capital on Thursday to
catch all of opening festivities.
Also, those unable to make it person
will be able to catch the live radio broadcast of both matches online at
www.israelsportsradio.com With the inimitable Mrs. Myra Kraft to be on hand at
the eponymously named stadium in Jerusalem to throw out the first ball, and a
musical interlude along with Hatikva to add to the entertainment, it is sure to
be a hopping Thursday evening as the IFL returns to the
Lions-Rebels at 7 p.m. followed by Kings-Black Swarm to top it all
The rest of the story will be written on the field. For now, just
one question remains; are you ready for some football?! For more information
about the IFL and tackle football in Israel, please visit www.ifl.co.il