Games We Play: Tackle Footbal

There is certainly no debate this week over the top team in the Fieldturf IFL.

USA football ball 88 (photo credit: )
USA football ball 88
(photo credit: )
There is certainly no debate this week over the top team in the Fieldturf IFL. Thursday night's highly-touted match at Kraft Stadium failed to live up to the pre-game hype as the Big Blue Jerusalem Lions were simply too strong and determined for an over-matched Real Housing Haifa Underdogs squad, riding an inspired performance from both their offense and defense, and not turning over the ball once, en route to a 38-22 victory that clinched first place and a trip to IFL championship game in March. After a quick strike by Haifa (5-3) put them on the board first with a 6-0 lead, Jerusalem (6-1) went on a 38-2 tear that all but iced the game by the start of the final quarter. While two fourth quarter scores by the Underdogs made the final score respectable, the game was never in doubt for a Big Blue team that played full-throttle football for 48 minutes, focused on avenging their only loss of the season. Credit the Jerusalem play callers for incorporating more runs to Moshe Horowitz and Adam Lemberg in the opening stages of the game. By running the tandem early on an assortment of draws and quick-hitters, Big Blue was able to exploit the deep drops of the Haifa linebackers and keep them guessing. Lemberg is beginning to provide Jerusalem with a second running threat needed to handle the exotic looks they will see in the playoffs. Not only did he post his second long touchdown run of the season (the other coming on a punt return), he broke off a couple of long runs where he baffled awaiting tacklers and showed good toughness while running hard between the tackles. After being a minimal contributor on offense for the early part of the season, Lemberg is giving Big Blue another explosive offensive weapon at just the right time. Curiously, the Underdogs seemed to base their game plan on playing to Big Blue's weaknesses rather than to their own strengths. The strong, smashmouth running game that has been the defining feature of the offense in their recent winning streak was abandoned for a pass-happy mentality that didn't produce results until it was too late. For most of the contest the failed to incorporate more slants and quick-outs to take advantage of the open windows available against Jerusalem's zone blitzes. Leor Subtonik was almost invisible and the running game produced only 89 yards, their lowest output of the season. On a positive note, Idan Maor is starting to stake his claim on the Haifa's offensive corps and was one of the bright spots on the day for Real Housing. His ability to generate big plays in both the passing and running game has given the Underdogs' an added dimension. He scored a long 45 yard catch-and-run touchdown, bouncing off Jerusalem defenders like a pinball and was a whirling dervish on defense all game, compiling seven solo tackles and 3 and a half sacks. With Haifa's hopes of embarking on a long playoff run, it will need Maor to continue to be a difference maker. Among the other things Haifa can take away from this crushing loss was their success at putting pressure on the Big Blue quarterback all game, leading to a whopping eight sacks. Also, after going into halftime down 24-8, they managed to regroup and play the Lions to a 14-14 draw in the second half. However, Jerusalem was playing their backups towards the end of the game and much of the Underdogs' offensive prowess was displayed only when the final outcome of the game was already decided. The IFL returns this upcoming Friday with an important duel with playoff implications between the Mike's Place Tel Aviv Sabres and the Dancing Camel Hasharon Pioneers at the Yarkon Sports Complex in the Baptist Village near Petah Tikva with kickoff at noon.