IFL: Sabres reign supreme; Rebels continue rally

It was an abbreviated but drama-drenched Week 9 in the Kraft Family IFL, as a pair of tightly contested battles were waged.

IFL logo 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
IFL logo 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It was an abbreviated but drama-drenched Week 9 in the Kraft Family IFL, as a pair of tightly contested battles were finally waged after the inclement weather won the first round of the weekend, forcing the postponement of a Thursday night showdown in the north between the Northern Stars and ISD Jerusalem Kings.
Still, there was more than enough action packed into the two-game slate, which saw the Talpion Judean Rebels come away with a thrilling 36-28 road conquest of Nemo’s Haifa Underdogs on Friday followed by the Bourbon Street Tel Aviv/Jaffa Sabres handcuff the Clal Tel Aviv Pioneers 38-6 in Saturday’s scintillating TA derby.
When it was all said and done, the IFL standings were shuffled around quite a bit, with the mighty Sabres leading the pack at a resounding 7-0. The inactive Hasharon Hammers (5-0) and Big Blue Jerusalem Lions (4-1) – now occupying second and third, respectively – were the big beneficiaries of the Pioneers’ first loss of the campaign, dropping them into fourth place at 3-1. Meanwhile, the Rebels continued their resurgence and improved to 4-3 in fifth place, just ahead of the Underdogs (3-4), who are clinging on to the all-important sixth place, which is the final playoff spot at season’s end.
The Kings (2-3) and Travel Leaders’ Beersheva Black Swarm (2-4) still have plenty of time to stake their claim to postseason berth, while the Northern Stars (1-4), Petah Tikva Troopers (0-5) and expansion Rechovot Silverbacks (0-6) round out the table and will likely jostle back and forth for bragging rights among the bottom trio as they continue to develop a consistently effective game-plan.
Friday’s Rebels-Underdogs duel was so pivotal because both teams have powerhouses up next on their schedule (Haifa hosts the Pioneers, while the Rebels visit the Hammers) and the meeting of .500 clubs was an opportunity for each to solidify its hold in the upper echelon without inducing too much second- half-of-the-season stress.
The Pioneers came into Saturday night in Neve Golan looking to try and staunch the flow of the surging defending champs.
A tense first quarter saw both teams turn the ball over and neither side reach the endzone in a riveting 0-0 affair that for once fulfilled the Pioneers’ old “what’s the score?” maxim.
However, things opened up a bit in the second frame, with Adi Hakami hitting Banning Fudge for a 17-yard score, and then pumping the ball into Cory Zinker for an 8-0 Sabres advantage. It looked like the Pioneers were about to immediately get that one back on the ensuing drive, however a Ron Moscona fumble at the TAJ two-yard line agonizingly gave the ball back to Bourbon Street.
Undeterred, a quick threeand- out returned possession to the Pioneers and a 38-yard firstdown rainbow from Moscona which fell beautifully into the hands of Dvir Arguoan set up a two-yard plunge into the endzone by Moscona to make it 8- 6 and get the bipartisan crowd rallied up.
Another three-and-out by the Sabres straddling the two-minute warning gave the Pioneers a chance to go in front before the break, however in a nightmare worst-case scenario for them, Fudge picked off Moscona and bobbed-and-weaved 42 yards to the house for a dagger of a touchdown that allowed the Sabres to take a 14-6 lead into halftime.
The Sabres stormed out of the gates in the second-half as a team possessed, and Cory Zinker’s 23- yard TD rumble on the first play from scrimmage set the tone for a tough 24 minutes for the Pioneers in which they were simply forced to bear witness to a superior effort and performance from an outstanding ballclub.
This week, the IFL serves up another delicious menu, with the Hammers and Lions set to duel on Thursday in the capital, followed by an intriguing Troopers- Silverbacks showdown on Friday and Pioneers-Underdogs clash on Saturday night up north. The Kings-Northern Stars bout has been rescheduled for Tuesday, January 22, which is also Election Day in Israel, giving ardent fans the chance to cast their vote and then come and enjoy some real hard-hitting action in a realm where politics fortunately take a back seat.For full Kraft Family IFL standings, stats and schedule, as well as for more information on pigskin in the Holy Land, please visit www.israelfootball.co.il