football danny brill kraft 311.
(photo credit: Rick Blumsack)
And then there were four...
The Kraft Family IFL playoffs kicked into gear over the weekend with a pair of hotly contested wild-card duels that saw the higher-seeded home teams book spots in the semifinals.
On Thursday night under the lights of Kraft Stadium, in as intense an environment as the league has ever seen, the Judean Rebels banged out a 46-20 victory over the Real Housing Haifa Underdogs to earn a date with the Mike’s Place Tel Aviv-Jaffa Sabres that promises to be a cage-match in every sense of the phrase.
Friday’s sun-soaked soiree in the capital saw the Big Blue Jerusalem Lions return to winning ways and avenge a late regular season drubbing at the hands of their first-round opponent from Modi’in.
The Dancing Camel Pioneers were simply overwhelmed from the start by a resurgent Itai Ashkenazi, who threw for three scores and ran for one more en route to a convincing 42-30 conquest that, if not erased, at least fogged up the memories of the Big Blue’s recent month-long swoon.
While the Pioneers rallied in the second half to make it interesting, the Lions turned in just their second turnover-free performance of the season to knock out the defending champs and keep their bid alive to make the finals for a third straight year.
They now will butt heads with their cross-city nemesis, the Papagaio Jerusalem Kings, who swept the season series between the clubs and are coming into Friday’s Final Four matchup well rested off a bye.
The IFL now collectively turns its attention to the upcoming semifinals, a pair of games that are sure to up the ante of fervor and excitement to unparalleled levels. Kraft Stadium will be the venue for Friday’s noon kickoff in the latest edition of a Lions-Kings Jerusalem rivalry that is growing stronger by the meeting. Their all-time series record sits at 2-2 and this next battle will go a long way in determining which club truly owns the keys to the capital.
Saturday night’s 9 p.m. clash in Holon will bring out all the heavyweights, with the Sabres relishing the opportunity to beat down the Rebels for a third time this year. The last time the teams met at the Hapoel Tel Aviv practice grounds, tempers flared on both sides and going into this one, there is certainly no love lost between the two sides.
While Mike’s Place comes in as the first-seeded favorites, the Rebels have come down the stretch on fire with four straight Ws and will be equipped with their full arsenal of weapons for the first time this season with the return of captain and emotional leader Peretz Rickett.
Friday at noon, Saturday at nine. Lions-Kings, Sabres-Rebels. Winners
advance to Israel Bowl III on March 26 in Jerusalem, a bonanza bash
regardless of the participants that will be played before a nationally
televised audience. If this can’t bring out the pigskin passion,
The Kraft Family IFL semifinals – they’re here, they’re real and they’re (sure to be) spectacular!