The penultimate weekend of the Kraft Family IFL regular season may have gotten
off to a wet start, but it certainly finished with some eye-popping fireworks as
one team clinched a playoff spot, another locked up its division and yet another
secured the first unbeaten record in league history in thrilling one-point
Thursday night’s doubleheader weather postponement put a damper
on the scheduled four-game slate – and in fact the Versafe Hatikva Hammers were
backed into taking a technical loss to the ISD Jerusalem Kings when they
couldn’t rally up a roster for Monday’s make-up – however the action got more
and more electrifying with each of three games that did proceed, coming to a
rousing crescendo with the instant game-of-theyear Tuesday night treat in the
capital that saw the Big Blue Jerusalem Lions somehow pull out a 36-35 nailbiter
over the rival Talpion Judean Rebels to complete their 10-0 regularseason run of
In the North Division, Nemo’s Haifa Underdogs guaranteed
themselves a postseason date in Jerusalem with a 57-6 Friday victory over the
first-year Petah Tikva Troopers, improving to 5-4 before a Purim finale in Kfar
Tavor against the also-expansion Northern Stars.
Haifa spread the wealth
around at Tel Aviv University, with eight different players making trips to the
endzone as the Troopers never really recovered from a first-quarter blocked
field goal that turned into a Barak Katzir 45-yard pick-up-and-run TD.
was 44-0 with the game not even 20 minutes old, and although a Chris Daves score
got PT on the board, the ‘hosts’ were done in by a pair of pick-sixes (and a
third INT returned to the 1) and fell to 0-10 to bring the curtains down on
their inaugural campaign.
Saturday night’s Tel Aviv derby at Neve Golan
saw the TA/Jaffa Sabres fight back from adversity for the second week in a row
to reaffirm their authority atop the North with a 38-12 triumph over the Clal
Tel Aviv Pioneers.
The Sabres were buoyed by a scintillating all-around
outing from Jonathan Curran, who accounted for four of the six TAJ TDs,
including a couple of highlight-reel grabs and a long scoring punt return. Adi
Hakami was uncharacteristically errant, tossing four interceptions to go along
with his three touchdowns, however he was bailed out by his defense, which
nabbed an IFLrecord seven picks of Pio rookie Asaf Gelber, including one taken
back for a score by Sabres stalwart Yoni Shohet.
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The result ensured the
Sabres (9-1) the first-round bye that comes with first place, while the Pioneers
(7-3) will have to settle for second and a home playoff game next Friday against
either the Kings or Beersheva Black Swarm, who duel in a mouthwatering winor-
go-home Sunday night Southern special to finish off the regular
With Friday and Saturday’s games in the books, and Monday’s
Kings-Hammers match cancelled, the league-wide anticipation was ripe for
Tuesday’s rare midweek kickoff between the South’s top two seeds.
both teams’ playoff seeding already set, and a severely depleted Lions’
receiving corps, there was no hiding the fact that both teams really wanted to
come away triumphant.
he game began a little sloppily, with Lions’
defensive demon Sean Carano pouncing on an early Joe Martisius fumble and taking
it to the house for a quick 6-0 Big Blue lead.
However the defending
champs would find their rhythm, capitalizing on a Uri Mangisto pick of Chaim
Schiff for their first score and went ahead 8-6 on an ultra-odd but correctly
called blocked-XP kick but caught mid-air and run in for two points.Scoring
strikes to Elias Metuko and Jaymes Kine saw the Judeans take what seemed like a
commanding 21-6 advantage, but Schiff led his troops back, tossing long TDs to
Ori Refaleowitz and Matan Lavi to bring the Lions to within a
Things were just beginning to get interesting,
Martisius quickly drove his team downfield before hitting Tani
Kramer from three yards out on the last play of the half to put the momentum
squarely on the side of the Orangemen.
A tightly waged third quarter saw
the Rebels once again take a seemingly insurmountable two-score lead, 35- 30, on
a short TD catch by Zev Aron, but as anyone with any Lions-Rebels experience
knows 15 points is well within range, even with time winding down.
Brill energized the Lions attack, surging forward in big chunks of yards and
plowing into the endzone just before the start of the fourth, with Tim Cohen’s
second two-point convert making it just a seven-point deficit heading into what
was a dazzling final frame.
Ultimately, the fourth quarter was marked by
three or four specific Rebels’ mistakes that gave away the game. The first, a
bad snap that Carano recovered in the endzone for his second defensive TD of the
night, still had Talpion ahead by one upon the failed conversion.
less than two minutes remaining and forced to punt from deep in their own zone,
the fateful snap went just over the punter’s head and rolling out back of the
endzone for the crucial two needed points and the night’s final
The postseason opens next Friday, when the Pioneers will host the
winner of Sunday’s Kings-Swarm battle in Beersheva, while the Rebels will
entertain the ’Dogs next Saturday night in the capital.
The Lions and
Sabres, with byes, will be paying especially close attention to the firstround
affairs, as the Lions will host the winner of the Pioneers- Kings/Swarm match
and the Sabres take on the Judea- Haifa victor.
Just three weeks left in
this fifth season of the Kraft Family IFL, but if this past weekend was any
indication of what usually happens when playoff-caliber teams meet with
superiority on the line, the fun is just getting started, both for players and
fans alike! Buckle up, this postseason ride could get wild!
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