Saving the best for last is what a championship game should be all about, a
maxim that played out in spades on Friday as the Bourbon Street Tel Aviv/Jaffa
Sabres conquered the Clal Tel Aviv Pioneers 44-42 in a sensational Israel Bowl V
to become the first two-time title-winner in the Kraft Family Israel Football
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been a part of a game like that
exciting,” exclaimed Israel Bowl co-MVP Adi Hakami, who threw for 150 yards and
three scores, including the game-winning touchdown with just 2:21 remaining to
cap off a scintillating back-and-forth final quarter that had all 650 people in
attendance and thousands more tuned in to the nationally televised broadcast on
the edge of their seats.
“It looked a little bleak for us, even on that
final Pioneers’ drive, but our defense came up with a huge turnover at the
perfect moment to propel us to this ultra-satisfying triumph.”
even after TAJ converted a crucial two-point conversion to go up by two points,
the Pioneers still had a glorious opportunity to ride off into the sunset with
the trophy, with two timeouts left and a running game that compiled 162 yards on
the ground looking fresh deep into the contest.
With the Sabres’ D
looking a little fatigued, it appeared as if the window was open for some
last-second heroics from Itay Ashkenazi & Co., especially after they picked
up a first down and had 10 extra yards tacked on courtesy of a late-hit
However, lining up from the TAJ 20-yard line with just over a
minute to go, veteran Pioneers running back Kobi Nimrod crossed signals with his
QB, and Ashkenazi’s pitch agonizingly fell to the ground untouched.
ball was pounced upon by game co- MVP Jonathan Curran for a fumble recovery,
allowing the Sabres to harmlessly kneel out the game and for the second time in
three years enjoy the sweet taste of a championship.
“We felt like that
game was ours for the taking,” reflected Pioneers’ wildcat-specialist Ron
Moscona, who took a number of snaps under center and even tossed a touchdown to
Daniel Ben Zvi that, at the time, gave the Blue-shirts a 36-28 lead at the start
of the fourth quarter.
“It’s going to take a bit of time to get over
losing this way, but that’s football. Execution is paramount and it takes every
single member of the team to enjoy ultimate success. We fell a little short
today, but we’ll be back, strong as ever.”
From the start of the game, it
didn’t appear as if a tight battle was in the making, with the Sabres’ jumping
out to a quick 14-0 advantage on a pair of short TD rumbles from Cory
After forcing turnover-on-downs for three straight Pio
possessions, murmurs of a blowout began to ripple through the packed
But, just before the first quarter ended, Elan Naiger turned the
game around with a beautiful body-twisting interception that he returned 13
yards to the house for his team’s first points, which opened the floodgates to a
wild second frame.
Ashkenazi took in a short QB-keeper to tie the match
at 14, before Ilan Bielas went on a running rampage, sandwiching scoring bursts
of 42 and five yards around an eight-yard Sabres’ TD on a pass from Hakami to
Curran levelled the contest with the first of his three
touchdowns on the last play from scrimmage before the break, and the 28-28
halftime score represented the very best efforts, and impressive adjustments, of
the two best teams in the country leaving it all on the field in a battle of
A scoreless third period paved the way for the
breathtaking fourth, in which the teams traded scoring drives like haymakers,
with Ben Zvi, and Bielas landing blows for the Pioneers and Curran coming to the
Sabres’ rescue with a 40-yard dash up the sidelines and the final nine-yard TD
With the score knotted at 42, it came down to Hakami’s guile,
with the fifth-year QB stubbornly refusing to buckle under pressure, taking the
decisive two-point conversion in himself, before nervously watching from the
sidelines as the Pioneers almost had the last laugh, only to be undone by their
first turnover of what was a courageous effort, even in defeat.
the Big Red Machine reigns supreme once more in the IFL. Three straight finals,
two titles and a big bulls-eye on their backs just begging the other teams in
the league to restock and come gunning for them next year.
this are what make all the hard work, all the practicing, all the commitment
worthwhile,” noted jubilant Sabres’ head coach Jon Sharon, before being drenched
by a Gatorade-cooler shower from his ecstatic team. “A game like this, a feeling
like this, is what sports are all about.”
Taking in the whole scene, from
the perspective of both players and fans alike, it would be difficult to
disagree with the new champs.