Games We Play: IFL season opens in Modi'in

Real Housing Haifa Underdogs beat Pioneers 24-14.

football 298.88 (photo credit: Ofri Becker / IFL)
football 298.88
(photo credit: Ofri Becker / IFL)
It may have been a new season, a new city and a new stadium, but Saturday night's Kraft Family IFL regular-season opener certainly provided a familiar result. The Real Housing Haifa Underdogs, riding a wave of consistency that began midway through last year, rumbled into Modi'in and took care of business in Game 1, dispatching the home-town Dancing Camel Modi'in Pioneers 24-14 to kick off 2008/09. Getting an all-around team effort and riding a pair of two-yard touchdown runs from half-back Lior Subotnik, the Underdogs did nothing fancy but everything necessary to win the feisty contest in typical lunch-bucket, workmen-like style, as is fast becoming their hallmark. Haifa's rookie quarterback, Itai Ashkenazi, continued his seamless transition into the offensive flow, the running game picked up over 100 yards on the ground and last year's top-ranked defense was back and buzzing from the opening whistle, forcing and recovering four Modi'in fumbles en route to the W. For the Pioneers, the game was somewhat encouraging also, even in a losing cause. The team-formerly-known-as-Hasharon underwent tremendous change during the off-season, overhauling much of its roster in addition to its new city-base. In just their second fully-equipped game together, the players seem to be gelling as a unit, the defense is developing a tough, smashmouth identity and you can just feel that it'll be any drive now that the offense breaks out for good. Almost 100 fans, including IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and Modi'in Deputy Mayor Alex Weinreb, were in attendance at the new Sportek Modi'in to see the upstart league kick off its second season. Haifa would build an early 12-0 lead before the Pioneers' star back Shmuel O'Neil burst through the hole and scampered 22 yards to the house to make it a one-possession game heading into the half. The Pioneers' were almost helpless to stop the Underdogs from grinding out tough yards on the ground and chewing up valuable ticks on the clock by steadily feeding their hungry backs Subotnik and his backfield-mate Igal Schneider. The pair pounded out three first downs before Subotnik put the game out of reach with another score. Modi'in did manage one more TD of its own and was good on the two-point conversion as well to bring it within 10. The Pioneers also recovered the subsequent onside kick, allowing the real football dreamers to keep the comeback spark lit, even though there was under a minute left. However, Haifa allowed none of the late-game hijinks that almost cost them last week's encounter and calmly bled out the clock on defense to walk away with a well-earned victory. The IFL's next game is this Friday, November 28 at the Baptist Village in Petah Tikva with a meeting between the Mike's Place Tel Aviv Sabres and the defending-champion Big Blue Jerusalem Lions in the first regular season match for both teams. The first game in Jerusalem is next Thursday, December 4 at Kraft Family Stadium with kickoff slated for 7:00 p.m. between the Pioneers and Blue Sun Music Jerusalem Kings.