IFL football rebels 311.
(photo credit: Adlai Maschiach)
It was a weekend that showcased the remarkable development of the two expansion franchises in the Kraft Family IFL as a pair of inspired performances were produced by both of the league’s first-year clubs, albeit with somewhat different results.
On Friday in the South, the Beersheva Black Swarm played what was undoubtedly their finest game of the season to date, falling just short of their first victory in a 42-40 heartbreaking loss to the Papagaio Jerusalem Kings.
The next night in Modi’in, the host Dancing Camel Pioneers were spanked 36-12 by the Judean Rebels, who, with the triumph, finished their inaugural regular season at 6-4 to wrap up the No. 3 seed and now have a month to prepare for a first-round playoff match at home.
Rebels wunderkind Joe Martisius continued to make a strong MVP case for himself, passing for almost 200 yards with four TDs and no picks while hitting three different teammates for scores.
After back-to-back 13-catch outings, Chris McKinny was “held” to just seven receptions and a pair of touchdowns while Ariel Morgan was a beast on D with two sacks and an interception to go along with his seven tackles.
With the top QB and receiver in the IFL, by the numbers, as well as a more-than-adequate ground game and bend-but-don’t break defense, Judea seems to be peaking just at the right time. Suffice it to say that the Orangemen are NOT an attractive postseason opponent for any of the other six clubs.
And, yes, all six of them are still in playoff contention, even after the Black Swarm fell to 0-8 with the crushing defeat to the Kings on Friday.
The IFL postseason structure has six of the seven teams qualifying after the 10-game regular season, with the top two seeds receiving a first-round bye and the 3 and 4 hosting the 6 and 5 seeds, respectively, in the wild-card round for a spot in the semifinals.
While Beersheva still has yet to crack the win column, it was only beaten by six points by the defending-champion Pioneers (2-6) in the season-opener. If the Swarm can somehow manage to shock the first-place Mike’s Place Tel Aviv Sabres (7-1) in their next contest and Modi’in fails to beat the 6-1 Big Blue Jerusalem Lions in their penultimate game, the season finale between the Pioneers and Black Swarm could see Beersheva snag the last playoff spot with a victory of at least seven points.
And for those that don’t see that as a possibility, Friday’s thriller at the patched-up Neot Lon field should be taken as Exhibit A of what could happen when a team in desperation mode rises to the occasion.
As the stunned Kings players remarked – even in victory mode – after the hard-fought battle, “wow, that was a completely different Beersheva team than the one we faced a few weeks ago!”
With only three or four roster additions, the new-and-improved Swarm attack that exploded for a season-high 40 was more the result of months of dedication and perseverance finally paying dividends. QB Koren Cohen finished 6-10 with a pair of touchdowns through the air, while a cadre of shifty running backs consisting of Roy Bendor, Yasha Polyakov, Yair Cohen and Meir Perez combined for a stratospheric 235 yards and 30 points on the ground.
Ultimately, the game came down to the forever underrated two-point conversion rate, with each team scoring the same half-dozen TDs, but the Kings out-converting the Swarm 3-2 to account for the margin of victory.
Polyakov had an opportunity with under a minute remaining to punch it in from three yards out to send the game to overtime, but he was denied at the goalline by Pin Pin Feierman, who made a game-saving tackle to lock up the win and improve the Kings’ record to .500 at 4-4 with two games left on the schedule.
The Kraft Family IFL heads down the stretch to the playoffs with February flying by.
This week sees the Lions and Kings clash in a derby for Jerusalem
bragging rights on Thursday evening at 8 p.m. and the Real Housing
Haifa Underdogs (4-5) close out their campaign against the Sabres on
Saturday night in Holon’s Hapoel Tel Aviv Sports Complex.