IFL: Sabres, Lions, Kings, Northern Stars cruise

After taking a week off due to the military situation throughout the country, the Kraft Family IFL returns with a vengeance.

IFL (photo credit: Rick Blumsack/IFL)
(photo credit: Rick Blumsack/IFL)
After taking a week off due to the military situation throughout the country, the Kraft Family IFL returned with a vengeance over the weekend, with a four-game slate that provided plenty of hard-hitting football action and some wet and wild highlights.
Beginning with a mouthwatering Thursday doubleheader in the capital, the Bourbon Street Tel Aviv/Jaffa Sabres came to town to pay a visit to the Talpion Judean Rebels and this time the defending champs turned out the lights on the Orangemen without need for any late-game dramatics in a 36-20 decisive triumph.
The Big Blue Jerusalem Lions followed that up with their first victory of the season, outdueling Nemo’s Haifa Underdogs 40-24 as Ori Refaelowitz caught three long TD passes and Binyamin Schultz notched a pair of second-half touchdowns to seal the deal and help stave off the black-and-gold’s comeback attempt.
Friday in Petah Tikva featured the skies opening up just in time for the burgeoning rivalry clash between the PT Troopers and the ISD Jerusalem Kings, who ultimately rained on the hosts’ parade to the tune of a 46-20 shellacking behind impressive performances from the quarterbacking tandem of Eli Skolnik and young Jordan Guin.
That contest paved the muddy path for Saturday’s soaker in Herzliya, a makeup affair pitting the second-year Nahariya Northern Stars traveling to take on the expansion Rechovot Silverbacks, who almost pulled out the franchise’s first victory, but ended up settling for a 21-16 morale-lifting loss.
For Nahariya, which claimed just its second-ever conquest to improve to 1-0 on the campaign, it was the perfect opportunity to jump out on the right foot and Netanel Ben-Zaquen scored on the opening drive to stake the visitors to a 7-0 lead after Yuval Fisher booted the extra point through the “uprights.”
The Silverbacks would claw back, pulling to within a point with the team’s first points on a short TD pass from Michael Slabodkin to Tom Kaufman.
The wet weather gave both teams some trouble, with there being a combined 12 fumbles on the night, most coming on botched snaps.
Just before the half, an Erez Baharav TD restored Nahariya’s seven-point advantage, however two plays later, Rechovot’s Mike Zinn zipped up the middle of the field 45 yards to the house for a score, with Slabodkin’s two-point keeper convert handing the hosts a 14- 13 lead heading into the break.
In a testament to the fact that a closely contested, hard-fought football game will always be extremely entertaining – no matter how sloppy – the Silverback and Northern Stars waged a second-half battle for the ages, with no player wanting to make the crucial mistake that would doom their side’s chances.
Shay Rotbaum came up huge for the Northerners with nine tackles and a crucial interception on a bat-down-tohimself piece of brilliance, while David Abramovich and Matan Nissimov anchored a stout defensive showing from Rechovot, which got the only points of the third quarter on a Safety to take a slim 16-13 edge into the final frame.
Just when it seemed as if the Silverbacks might have enough willpower and stamina to complete the upset, the Stars’ offense sputtered to life. Etay Torres wasn’t about to let his team take the long bus-ride home in silence and picked up a crucial first-down before barreling into the endzone for an eightyard touchdown and self-conversion that held up as the final points of the nights and fueled a well-earned first Nahariya road win.
Indeed, it was good weekend for visiting teams in the IFL, with the Sabres and Kings also notching away victories and the Underdogs being only traveling loser of the round.
Tel Aviv/Jaffa was once again buoyed by an entire gang of standout performers, with Brandon MacDougald leading the way with three TDs and Cory Zinker chipping in with two more.
Banning Fudge (11 tackles, INT), Adam Zinker (9 tackles, sack) and Ryan Michael (12 tackles) starred on the other side of the ball with Aaron Suissa (9 tackles) infusing the special-teams unit with a needed spark after the Rebels had rallied back from an early 18-0 deficit to make it 18-14 by halftime.
Jaymes Kine (13-27, 81 yards, 2 TDs and 19 carries for 71 yards and a score on the ground) and Dani Eastman (161 total yards, 2 TDs) helped keep the Rebels in the game, however the Judeans were clearly overmatched in this one and simply didn’t have the firepower to keep up with the Big Red Machine, which improved to 2-0 with a second comfortable conquest over a supposed contender.
Haifa, meanwhile, fell to a second straight defeat as it was done in by the balanced Lions’ attack, which welcomed back Chaim Schiff, who threw for 121 yards and three TDs, even while tossing two picks.
Refaelowitz and Schultz combined for five of Big Blue’s six touchdowns, with Matan Lavi bursting through a seam for a 56-yard score and racking up 101 yards on just carries and veteran Shmuel Halperin hauling in a number of pretty catches and a pair of twopoint conversions.
Even while keeping pace after a disastrous first quarter in which they fell behind 14-0, the Underdogs couldn’t generate any consistent momentum.
With both Matt Kaufman or Moshe Genon taking turns under center, Haifa turned the ball over four times, simply too many against a Jerusalem squad which always seems ready to pounce on opponents’ mistakes.
The Kings, as well, came ready to take advantage of any opportunities Petah Tikva would throw their way, and jumped out to a 24-0 lead before the Troopers were able to grab back a score just before half-time. A pair of thirdquarter touchdowns by Guinn essentially put the game out of reach at 40-6, although the Troopers used the fourth quarter to get their passing game in gear, with Ran David firing a pair of scoring strikes to Sahar Yair and hitting both Artiyum Somoskovi and Adi Sharabi on long completions.
All in all, while only one of the four games played finished within a score, the losing squads all learned valuable lessons early on that will benefit them once the games really start to intensify in the battle for the six precious playoff spots (out of 11 teams in the league.) This week sees three more games scheduled across the country, with the Silverbacks visiting the Hasharon Hammers for a rare Wednesday night kickoff, the Travel Leader Beersheva Blackswarm at the Rebels on Thursday in Kraft Stadium and the Northern Stars hosting the Sabres on Friday morning in Kibbutz Ein Ha’Mifratz.
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