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After coming up short and missing the title game the last few seasons, Big Blue has won its fifth overall national flag football championship and first in five years.
Big Blue defeated Tov Pizza 28-26 in the 2006 Heritage Affinity AFI Holyland Bowl at Kraft Family Stadium in Jerusalem on Saturday night.
With a capacity crowd on hand, Big Blue rode the momentum from a blowout semifinal victory the previous week into the first plays of the Holyland Bowl and then capitalized on a late interception for the gamewinning points.
After winning the coin toss, performed by Mikey Leibowitz, the 11-year-old son of American Football in Israel president Steve Leibowitz, Big Blue captain and Holyland Bowl MVP Chaim Schiff elected to kick off.
While Big Blue's defense stopped Tov Pizza on its first two offensive series, Schiff threw downfield twice to Natan Schwartz for touchdowns on consecutive possessions. Big Blue had an early 12-0 lead and it seemed like it would cruise to its second-straight one-sided victory.
However, Tov Pizza's defense adjusted to Big Blue's air-it-out game plan and held Big Blue scoreless the rest of the first half, while on the other side of the ball, Tov's offense came to life to score 13 unanswered points before halftime. Quarterback Yossi Ritterman threw touchdown passes to captain David Flam and Tzvi Mandel. Ritterman and Mandel also hooked up on an extra-point conversion for the narrow lead.
"Even though Big Blue played a great first half," noted Yair Smith, a Heritage Affinity AFI official, "they were losing at halftime."
Since Big Blue chose to kick off the first half, it's offense got the first chance in the second period. Tov Pizza turned the advantage around with an interception at midfield.
On the ensuing drive, Ritterman found Aryeh Rudman, who scored Tov Pizza's third touchdown of the night. Following a successful extrapoint conversion on a Bitterman-to-Mandel pass, Tov had a 20-12 lead.
After giving up 20 straight points and stalling on offense since the beginning of the first half, Big Blue evened the score as Schiff threw to receiver Pinny Rotter for a touchdown and then to Ari Sprung on the two-point conversion.
With the game knotted at 20-20 about halfway through the second period, Tov Pizza took over at its own 10-yard line. Ritterman tried to avoid the Big Blue rush by scrambling back into his own end zone and blocked his flag, resulting in a safety that gave Big Blue a 22-20 lead and also gave Big Blue possession.
Big Blue's Rotter, who ran free in the middle of Tov Pizza's defense virtually all night, had a touchdown reception called back by a holding penalty, and then Tov Pizza got the ball back.
Tov Pizza took the lead again soon after, but suffered a huge loss, when Ritterman threaded the needle to find Rudman in the end zone. In the process of making a spectacular catch between two Big Blue defenders, the receiver's knee hit the Fieldturf artificial surface hard. After protesting to the medic, one of Tov Pizza's biggest offensive threats was forced to leave the game and went immediately to receive medical treatment.
The extra-point conversion failed and Tov Pizza held a narrow 26-22 lead with four minutes left in the game.
After Tov Pizza stopped Big Blue on the following series, Big Blue needed a big play on defense and got it. Sprung came up with an interception and appeared to run it back for a touchdown. However, a referee called the play dead because Sprung had lost control of the ball during his return.
It was Big Blue's ball, and Schiff put it up for Sprung, who made the catch as he was being pushed out of the end zone. The touchdown gave Big Blue a 28-26 lead. With less than a minute on the game clock, a meaningless extra-point conversion failed.
On the last two plays of the game, Ritterman threw the ball downfield but Tov Pizza came up empty and turned the ball over on downs, at which point Big Blue players began their long-awaited celebration.
In the Terem Bowl, in memory of Dr. David Applebaum, Fairmont Funding defeated T.C. Farbmans 24-6. T.C. Farbmans opened the scoring, and the game was tied at 6-6 at halftime, but Fairmont Funding took control in the second half. T.C. Farbmans had reached the bowl with a 33-29 victory over Oma's on Friday.
In lower-tier playoff bracket finals, it was: Boston Friends 36, Cobras 26; and METV 40, Derech Etz Chaim 18.
Josh Shuman PR upsets Kfar Zippori for co-ed title
Josh Shuman PR knocked off previously-unbeaten Kfar Zippori 29-12 in the Devorah Schechter Bowl, the Tuesday Night Football League championship game. Kfar Zippori was looking for its third straight TNFL title.
In the third-place game, Pardes edged Big Blue 19-18. The Tuesday night Big Blue team was the only Big Blue team not to win its league championship in the 2005/06 fall-winter AFI season. In the Fieldturf Women's American Football in Israel league, Big Blue won the title a week ago.
American Football in Israel is now registering teams for spring women's, high school and men's 9-on-9 leagues.
For more information on American Football in Israel, visit www.israelfootball.net, or contact Jay L. Abramoff at firstname.lastname@example.org or 054-440-2659.