Football: Modi'in edges Jerusalem in OT

In front of a raucus crowd at J'lem's Kraft Stadium, the expansion-Blue Sun Music J'lem Kings open their regular season with a dramatic loss.

football 88 (photo credit: )
football 88
(photo credit: )
Those in the mood for the well-done overtime thriller off the pigskin menu certainly got their order filled to perfection in the Kraft Family IFL on Thursday night. It was just unfortunate that the home team had to come out on the losing end of this one. In front of a raucus crowd at Jerusalem's Kraft Stadium, the expansion-Blue Sun Music Jerusalem Kings opened their regular season with a dramatic 44-42 OT loss to the Dancing Camel Modi'in Pioneers in a battle of both skill and will that had almost as many momentum-shifts as points scored. The Pioneers (1-1) jumped out to a quick 14-0 advantage in the first quarter on a pair of 32-yard touchdown runs by their star running back Shmuel O'Neil, the IFL's reigning rushing champion, and it looked like the Kings (0-1) were going to be in for a long night. A safety and another Modi'in TD brought the lead to a seemingly insurmountable 24-0 with just a minute left in the first half, and the home-town fans were beginning to get restless. However a picture-perfect, 45-yard bomb from Jerusalem's quarterback Joseph Marticius - the prettiest pass in the IFL to date - that receiver Chaim Gross somehow managed to adjust under and haul in for a score got the Kings on track heading into the break. Even down 32-6 after a third O'Neil touchdown, the Kings refused to give up, and another launch-attack from the blossoming Marticius-Gross connection got Jerusalem to within two scores after three, at 30-14, to set up a wild fourth quarter. Jerusalem seemed invigorated by the crowd support and marched down the field on consecutive drives of at least eight plays each, both culminating in touchdowns and two-point conversions, to knot the score at 30 with under five minutes to play. Modi'in's offense, however, awoke from its quarter-long slumber as O'Neil caught a 15-yard pass for his fourth score of the day for what appeared to be the nail-in-the-coffin blow with just a minute remaining in regulation. Gross and Marticius were not done yet, though, and the Kings' play-caller orchestrated a methodical drive, passing with pin-point accuracy and running his way to a pair of first downs. The icing on the cake was a beautifully-lofted pass as the final whistle sounded that Gross picked out of the chilly sky in the back of the endzone for the game-tying points that sent the fans into a tizzy. Jerusalem was unsuccesful on what would have been the game-winning conversion and the encounter was sent to an extra session, a deserving finish for a game that, despite the cold, no one in the stadium wanted to end. In overtime, each team was given one possession to score from their opponent's 25-yard line. If the score remained even at that point, the game would end in a tie. The Kings started with the ball and were able to penetrate the Modi'in defense, with the help of a crucial pass interference call at the goal line on the Pioneers, setting up a first-and-goal in the red-zone. On second down, Marticius faked a run to the right before firing a perfect strike to the opposite side of the field for a TD by tight-end David Jesselson for a 42-36 Jerusalem lead, the team's first of the night. However the Kings' magic ran out just one defensive set of downs too soon. On their last opportunity, the Pioneers were able to scramble and confuse the Jerusalem defense, opening the door for backup running back, Tomer Edri, to sneak into the endzone on an 18-yard scoring scamper. A touch pass from quarterback Uri Schiff that receiver Raphael Bloom made a nice play on to pull in for the game-winning, two-point conversion was all the Pioneers needed to burst the Jerusalem comeback bubble and claim their first victory of what is sure to be a season full of drama and excitement. This week, the Kraft Family IFL will put on a Friday-Saturday weekend-double-header, with the first game being played on Friday, December 12 at 11 a.m. at Kibbutz Ein Hashofet near Haifa, featuring the Real Housing Haifa Underdogs (1-0) and the Mike's Place Tel Aviv Sabres (0-1). The next evening, on Saturday, December 13 at 7:30 p.m, the league returns to Modi'in for a tilt between the Big Blue Jerualem Lions (1-0) and the home-town Pioneers. All fans are welcome.