Any true football fan could not have dreamed of a more perfect finish to a season than the awesome doubleheader extravaganza that the Kraft Family IFL staged last Friday.
Before a record crowd in Jerusalem, the Dancing Camel Modi'in Pioneers were crowned champions of the 2008/09 honeymoon season for Israeli tackle football after a thrilling 32-26 double overtime victory over the Big Blue Jerusalem Lions in an Israel Bowl II that somehow managed to top the non-stop excitement of the morning's 3rd place contest.
The delicious appetizer bout between the Real Housing Haifa Underdogs and the Blue Sun Music Jerusalem Kings was back-and-forth haymakers throughout until an Ori Shterenback 26-yard field goal with six seconds left, the very first in IFL history, gave the Underdogs the win in an outrageous 43-40 affair.
In the afternoon's main event, the outcome, and second-season title, was totally up in the air until the very last play of the game, a walk-off 60-yard interception return for a touchdown by the unlikeliest of heroes, the Pioneers' Ohad Nave, who as recently as a month ago was fighting a severe vision problem that was threatening to end his career.
Big Blue, who had fought back from a large fourth-quarter deficit for the second week in a row to force overtime, and had a foiled chance to win in the extra frame on a two-point conversion that slipped out of the hands of star receiver Akiva Rindenow, ended up conceding their belt to a Modi'in club which was more than deserving.
The Pioneers, who ran the table with nine consecutive wins en route to the championship after a loss to open the season, executed a perfect game plan against Big Blue and, after going up 20-8 before the half, hung around in the face of a torrid Jerusalem comeback to walk away with the victory on one of the few mistakes of the day by the Lions' offense.
The Lions had won the overtime coin toss and decided to defend first from their own 25-yard line. An Asaf Katz touchdown gave Modi'in first blood in overtime, but Big Blue stormed back to equalize as Bauman went back to Rindenow for his third TD of the day to keep the drama going.
However, Jerusalem started with the ball in the second go-round and, four plays later, Bauman's pass at the goal line was picked off by Nave and the rest is history as Modi'in was awarded the Ofri Becker trophy by IFL Commissioner Ben Friedman in a spirited on-field celebration.
In the morning battle between the Underdogs and Kings, Haifa jumped out to 22-0 lead, and held a 28-6 advantage at the break.
The Kings stormed back in the second half behind a ridiculous one-man-show performance from quarterback (and pretty much everything else as well) Joseph Marticius.
The fiery leader of Blue Sun Music wouldn't let his undermanned team give up and brought them all the way back to tie the game at 40 with just 1:36 on the clock.
He finished with two TD passes through the air (both to Josh Flaks), another three on the ground, plus a kick return for 46 yards for another six points, as well as five tackles and an interception.
The only mistake Marticius made was leaving too much time on the clock for Haifa, who took advantage by driving 40 yards on nine plays in the final 90 seconds to set up the winning kick.
The IFL now turns its attention to a packed off-season schedule, with the three-day Pesach Rookie Camp first up next week at the Baptist Village near Petah Tikva.
Within the next two weeks, the league will be announcing its much-anticipated first and second All-IFL team, with many new faces sure to join the esteemed ranks.
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