Hail-Mary hoists Hammers over Haifa

Kings put up a courageous fight, but fall to the surging Rebels in Chanuka Bowl.

Football 311 (photo credit: Renata Rivkin)
Football 311
(photo credit: Renata Rivkin)
Week 5 in the Kraft Family IFL provided a pair of highly entertaining divisional showdowns, with Leo Bloom’s Herzliya Hammers pulling out a 36-30 thriller over the Real Housing Haifa Underdogs on Friday in Holon and the Gush Texas Judean Rebels staving off a gallant effort by the Papagaio Jerusalem Kings in a 44-24 flag-fest of a Chanuka Bowl the next night in the capital.
As exciting as Saturday’s quasi-derby was – with Joe Martisius’ three touchdown performance and a seven-sack masterpiece from the Elayyan family on the Rebels side, to go along with a stalwart 22-carry, two-TD showing from Kings’ bruiser Jacob “Big T” Tanenbaum – it was simply no match for the weekend’s sensational, good-to-the-last-drop appetizer.
In the Game-of-the-Year thus far in the IFL, the first-year Hammers once again demonstrated that they are not to be taken lightly despite their relative inexperience, improving to 2-1 with a gutsy triumph over an originalfour franchise in a contest that had as many twists and turns as a football player’s ankle over the course of a long season.
QB Ady Totah and receiver Roy Rubinstein were the heroes, connecting for three long touchdowns, including the 31-yard walk-off game-winner on the very last play of the afternoon that plunged a dagger into the hearts of the deflated Underdogs (0-3), who had fought so valiantly to overturn an early deficit in their quest to claim a maiden victory, their first since midseason last year.
The difference in this once was situational execution and mental mistakes. As Haifa sponsor Hy Brown reflected afterwards, “We had three facemasks on fourth downs, we got into the 10-yard line without scoring three times and we gave up too many long passing plays. As close as we made it at the end, you aren’t going to win too many when you do all those things.”
Saturday night’s Chanuka Bowl at Kraft Stadium – which kicked off with the lighting of the menora and another moment of silence in memory of those affected by the Carmel fire – was an intriguing battle of wills, with the Kings having the supreme confidence that they could pull off the upset and the Rebels – comfortable winners of two straight coming in – out to prove that their opening-night loss was a distant memory.
While the Kings’ defense – led by Marshall Mullinax – waged an impressive fight, holding the vaunted Judean attack to “just” five offensive TDs, the Rebels defenders put on a masterpiece. While the final score-line wasn’t as remarkable as the 44-0 shutout of Herzliya the previous week, the individual performances were simply awe-inspiring.
The three Elayyan brothers – Ayoub, Mohammed and Mussa – combined for 29 tackles, a bone-crunching seven sacks and a fumble recovery, while Matt Geller had a ridiculous 16 tackles, a fumble recovery and a sack-and-a-half. Not to mention departing unit captain Ricky Wolder, who put up 12 tackles and a 39-yard fumble recovery and return for a TD that was perhaps the pivotal point in the game.
“We can definitely take some positives from this game, even in defeat,” explained Mullinax.
“While we were beaten by the better team tonight, we were able to integrate some much-needed new blood into our lineup and I feel like this was an improvement even from our last game, which ended with us winning.”
The IFL now turns its attention to another triple-shot weekend, with a Thursday, Friday, Saturday slat sure to provide plenty of pulsepounding action.
The Big Blue Jerusalem Lions (2-1) host their Southern Division rivals, the Travel Leaders’ Beersheva Black Swarm (1-2), to kick things off at 8 p.m. Thursday at Kraft Stadium, while the Dancing Camel Tel Aviv Pioneers (1-2) entertain the Hammers in an 11:30 a.m. Northern duel on Friday at Tel Aviv University.
The top-of-table Arthur’s Tel Aviv/Jaffa Sabres (3-0) look to continue their dominance in the Week 6 finale on Saturday night when the Underdogs come to town, with the Kings and Rebels getting the week off.
For more information about the IFL and tackle football in Israel, please visit www.ifl.co.il