Hammers pull out nail-biter, Troopers triumph at last

It was a momentous Week 10 in the Kraft Family IFL with three winning road warriors.

TEL AVIV PIONEERS receiver Idan Yaron vies for the ball 390 (photo credit: IFL)
TEL AVIV PIONEERS receiver Idan Yaron vies for the ball 390
(photo credit: IFL)
It was a momentous Week 10 in the Kraft Family IFL with three winning road warriors, as one club recorded its first-ever victory sandwiched by the new-contender-on-the- block beating a perennial powerhouse and a fantastic classic clash up north between a pair of original-four franchises.
Working our way backwards, on Saturday night the Clal Tel Aviv Pioneers traveled to face Nemo’s Haifa Underdogs in Kiryat Yam, with both teams looking to put tough losses from the previous weekend well in the rearview mirror. Ultimately, it was a hardhitting, momentum-swinging affair in which the Pioneers got touchdowns from four different players to hold off the hosts and improve to 4-1 on the campaign with a 28-18 conquest.
Friday morning in Ramle will be a day and place that goes down in the annals of the Petah Tikva Troopers as the site of the team’s first taste of victory. The second-year franchise went 0-10 last season – despite a number of close chances – and came into their meeting with the expansion Rehovot Silverbacks sporting a 0- 5 record this year and starving to break the schneid.
A revitalized Chris Daves and a crescendoing Noam Shefer led the Troopers’ offensive explosion, combining for five of the team’s six touchdowns to dispatch the Silverbacks 46-6 and set off the celebrations on the PT sidelines.
“Feel good about yourself. All of you deserve this and have practiced extremely hard for this,” an exultant PT coach Hanan Stern told his players as the game wound down. “Soak in this sensation and let’s have this be the first of many times we feel it.”
Indeed, the Troopers needn’t look too far at all to find a perfect template of development to model themselves after.
It wasn’t long ago that the Hasharon Hammers were also struggling to avoid cellardwelling in the standings, and finally in this, their third season in existence, this have taken a drastic turn upwards.
On Thursday night in the capital, the Hammers put their undefeated record to the test against the mighty Big Blue Jerusalem Lions and came away still unscathed with a tight 24-18 triumph that emphatically announced to the rest of the league that Hasharon is a true power to contend with, sitting just back of the Bourbon Street Tel Aviv/Jaffa Sabres now with a sparkling 6-0 start.
The Pioneers and Underdogs also find themselves in the thick of things as the regular season hits the homestretch. Saturday’s contest was a pivotal one for both long-time rivals as Tel Aviv came in looking to bounce back from its first defeat of the season – a true humbling by the Sabres – and Haifa wanted to get back to winning ways following a tough loss to the Judean Rebels.
After the Pioneers took a 22-6 lead into the break, a determined Underdogs squad came out gunning in the second half and Tim Kelly (25 carries for 138 yards) scored consecutive touchdowns straddling the third and fourth stanzas to set up a dramatic finish at 22-18 Pioneers with more than seven minutes left in regulation.
A crucial and controversial goalline fumble by Kauffman was recovered by TA’s Sagan Zavelo – who had 15 tackles and a passbreakup to go along with the fumble recovery – and with that call likely went Haifa’s chance of pulling off the comeback.
After a last-gasp drive fell short for Nemo’s the Pioneers were relieved to escape with the win and improve to 4-1 on the season while sending the Underdogs back to .500 at 4-4 heading into a two-week break.
The rest of the IFL, however, is full-steam ahead, with another action-packed Week 11 slate across the country.
On Election Tuesday, in a makeup game from the snow-delayed weekend, the ISD Jerusalem Kings (2-3) trek up to Kibbutz Sahar to face the Northern Stars (1-4) in a game the Kings need to stay on pace for a playoff spot.
On Thursday, the Hammers host the Rebels (4-3) in Ramat Hasharon for a game that many well-known VIPs are expected to attend while Friday features the Pioneers entertaining the Troopers (1-5) before the Silverbacks (0-7) visit the Beersheba Black Swarm (2-4) on Saturday night to close out the busy weekend.
For full Kraft Family IFL standings, stats and schedule, as well as for more information on pigskin in the Holy Land, please visit www.israel-football.co.il