(photo credit: Courtesy)
With a full-throttled offense and suffocating defense, the B-More Backers, named in memory of a Baltimore teen killed in a tragic car accident earlier this year, rolled to a 46-6 victory to claim the championship of the American Football in Israel high school league.
The Backers finished the season with just one loss, landing in a tie for first place. Like other teams, these teens felt that they were playing with a sense of purpose.
Chananya Backer, a well-liked sixteen year old, was killed in August, 2008, in an early morning car accident. His death left a deep and lasting impact on his friends and other teens who knew him. A number of them were former Baltimoreans who had moved to Israel.
As these youth came together to form an AFI team, the Baltimore players searched for a sponsor (to pay the $750 entry fee) and deliberated over a team name. Aryeh Eastman, who had moved to Israel in 2007, but had grown up with Backer, suggested naming the team in memory of the deceased Baltimore teenager. The suggestion was heartily adopted by the team, and the Orman and Eastman families, parents of three players who grew up with Chananya Backer, quickly stepped in to provide the sponsorship.
Anchored by a host of Baltimoreans, including quarterback Chaim Finklestein, receiver and linebacker Doni Raskas, and rushers and linemen Noam Orman and Doni and Aryeh Eastman, the B-More Backers overwhelmed their opponents with an array of speed, agility and aggressive play.
The Baltimore core was reinforced by the all-star play of two additional receivers and defenders, Shmuel Artman and Chaim "Koosie" Kleinman. Avi Raskas and Avi Eastman, two other former Baltimoreans coached the team.
The team reached the final round of the playoffs in convincing fashion, trouncing their early round opponents by scores of 50-0 and 32-14. In the championship game, they were matched against the A-Team, comprised of American youth primarily from the town of Chashmonaem.
When these two teams met in the regular season, the Backers won on a late touchdown. While the A-team had scored a league high average of 39 points per game, this time around, the A-Team offense proved no match for the aggressive and punishing Backers defense.
B-More intercepted the A-Team on its first drive and then converted the opportunity into a touchdown. The A-Team then scored on its next drive. But the Backers painstakingly pursued the defensive plan specially designed by Coach Avi Raskas to shut down the A-Team's slash-and-run offense, holding it scoreless for the remainder of the game.
Meanwhile, Finklestein connected on a number of deep touchdown passes to Kleinman and Artman to stake the team to a 26-6 halftime lead. The B-More Backers did not let up one bit in the second half, holding the A-Team scoreless for the remainder of the game and adding three more touchdowns to their lead.
Bruce Orman, who still resides in Baltimore but arranged his schedule to be present for the game, beamed with pride as the season came to a sweet end.
"These boys did not just play to win," he observed. "They cared about supporting one another, so it's no wonder that they did this for Chananya."
Raskas, who moved to Israel from Baltimore in August, was elated by the victory.
"It's a real bonus to get here and win a championship right away, and I'm really happy that we could do this for Chananya. That really gave us something special to play for."
The AFI high school flag football league has 15 teams and over 100 players. The spring season begins on March 17 and new franchises and players are always welcome. Visit www.israelfootball.net for more information.