IFL: Big Blue gets costly opening win

Jerusalem Lions wish victory didn't have to come at such a high price.

flag football 298.88 (photo credit: )
flag football 298.88
(photo credit: )
A win is a win, especially in a season-opener, although the Big Blue Jerusalem Lions wish this one didn't have to come at such a high price. Riding a superlative effort from the entire defensive unit and a back-breaking 60-yard interception return for a touchdown on the last play of the first half, the defending-champion Lions opened their Kraft Family IFL 2008/09 regular season on Friday with a 20-14 victory over the Mike's Place Tel Aviv Sabres at the now-infamous Baptist Village ankle-graveyard. The news from the Big Blue camp was not all rosy, even in triumph, as the team learned on the bus back to Jerusalem that their pair of All-IFL linemen had both suffered broken ankles during the encounter and would be out indefinitely, striking a heavy blow to an already-depleted lineup. Avigdor Moore and Ben Lemberg, who both played crucial roles in Friday's win and have provided endless doses of much-needed veteran leadership over the past two years, fell awkwardly on routine defensive plays due to the uneven, almost hilly, playing surface at the Baptist Village and were taught the hard way that all the conditioning and care in the world is no match for a little undulation in the grass. Their loss will be felt both on and off the field. It was doubly unfortunate that the injuries sustained ended up overshadowing what was actually a tightly-played, evenly-matched game between last season's first and last place teams right from the opening kickoff. With the Lions already up 6-0 and time running out in the first half, the Sabres managed to march down the field with three consecutive first downs, giving them a shot to at least tie the score before the half and possibly even take the lead. However, instead of taking a conservative approach and pounding the ball at the defense with the run, Tel Aviv went for the glory and attempted two passes into the endzone. The second throw, a telegraph with no time left on the clock, was deftly intercepted by Big Blue's Sinai Levy, who was immediately off to the races. In as short a time as it took Levy to run the full length of the field and tie the IFL record for longest TD and INT return, a seismic, game-turning momentum shift had transpired and the Lions, ever-fortuitously, went into the interval with a 12-0 advantage. Tel Aviv, down but not out, came out with renewed vigor and rallied for a quick touchdown of its own to begin the second half. While they were able to contain the vaunted Big Blue offensive attack, holding it to just three first downs for the game and a paltry one in the second half, the Sabres were unable to produce enough yardage of their own to complete their valiant effort at a comeback. A last-second desperation heave from Tamir Elterman to receiver Liran Hovav for a 34-yard TD was all they would get. It was almost a tease by the football gods to bring them to within six points of Jerusalem, with a 20-14 final, and make them wonder what might have been if not for one colossally-poorly-timed turnover. The IFL next gets under way on Thursday, December 4 at Kraft Family Stadium in Jerusalem with a match between the expansion-Blue Sun Music Jerusalem Kings (0-0) and the Dancing Camel Modi'in Pioneers (0-1). Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.