Kings grab last spot over Swarm

The lines are set, and with two pick-ems, this should shape up to be a scintillating weekend of football.

IFL logo 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
IFL logo 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
There was plenty of cross-country craziness over the weekend as the Kraft Family Israel Football League wrapped up its regular season with a three-game slate sandwiched around the various Purim celebrations and/or rocket ramifications from North to South and everywhere in between.
Thursday night’s 54-0 romp in Kfar Tavor, in which Nemo’s Haifa Underdogs dominated their neighboring Northern Stars, set the table for Friday’s 66-12 pounding leveled by the Clal Tel Aviv Pioneers on the Versafe Hatikva Hammers.
As much as the victors of both those games were thrilled to gear up for the playoffs with stylish conquests, Sunday night’s Beersheva Black Swarm-ISD Jerusalem Kings clash in the capital clearly took the cake as the undisputed game-of-the-weekend and lived up to its billing as a worthy finale to another action-packed IFL campaign.
With both the Kings and Swarm coming into the contest with identical 3-6 records, and just one postseason slot remaining, the stakes were set roof-high from the outset, each side priming itself up for a win-or-go-home crunch showdown.
The game had flip-flopped locations twice already as of Saturday before being finally scheduled for Sunday at 9:30 in Beersheva... that is, until terrorist rocket attacks in the South necessitated a quick change of venue to Kraft Family Stadium in Jerusalem, an unfortunate development for the country as a whole, and alas also for the Black Swarm.
Jerusalem was chomping at the bit right from the opening kickoff and Ari “Aussie” Wasjport got the new-found hosts out to an early lead with a 40- yard dash up the sidelines for the game’s first points.
Kings’ heart-and-soul Marshall Mullinax turned in perhaps his biggest performance of the season, taking in consecutive touchdowns to close out the first and begin the second quarters saw Jerusalem sitting pretty at 20-0.
However, Black Swarm all-around specialist Andrew Wieberdink picked off an errant Eli Skolnik pass and took it back 57 yards to the house for a tide-turning TD to breathe some wind back into the Beersheva sails.
Ultimately, the Black Swarm learned the hard way that starting the season 3-2 is no sure path to the postseason, dropping their fifth straight encounter by a 20-14 final score to slink out of the playoffs in heartbreaking fashion.
Without much time to rest, Jerusalem will travel to Tel Aviv University this Friday to face the Pioneers in a first-round battle that is sure to bring out the best in both teams.
The big elephant in the room of course, is whether Itay Ashkenazi will suit up for Tel Aviv, with him being potentially a game-changing presence, despite the rapid development of youngster Asaf Gelber.
Both QBs saw the field this past Friday in the tune-up against the Hammers, however it was the Pio running game that really was the star of the show in the 54-point blowout.
Rookie Yonatan Shkolsky continued to tear up opposing defenses, scampering for 168 yards and escalating touchdown runs of 6, 9, 44 and 45 yards to pace the Clal offense. However, he was matched by veteran teammate Kobi Nimrod, who went over the century mark with 101 rushing yards, including a 58-yard score as one of his two TDs on the day for the longest play from scrimmage of the Pioneers’ season.
When it is all said and done, Hatikva (3-7) will be joining the Black Swarm and the two expansion teams – the Petah Tikva Troopers (0-10) and Northern Stars (1-9) – on the outside looking in when the playoffs get under way this weekend.
The Northern Stars were victims of the a smothering Haifa defense in Kfar Tavor, with the Underdogs pitching their second shutout of the season and finishing with a league-low 162 points allowed to improve to 6-4 ahead of their first-round match on the road at the Judean Rebels.
All eyes now turn to the playoffs, where legends are made and broken, dreams shattered and fulfilled.
With the first-seeded Tel Aviv/Jaffa Sabres (9-1) and Big Blue Jerusalem Lions (10-0) lurking in the wings awaiting the first-round victors in the semis, the Kings and Pioneers (Friday, 11 a.m. @ TA University) and Rebels and Underdogs (Saturday, 9:15 p.m. @ Kraft Stadium) meet with elimination and pride at stake.
The lines are set, and with two pick-ems, this should shape up to be a scintillating weekend of football.
Playoffs, baby!
This is what it’s all about!