Kings still alive as Pioneers thrash Rebels

IFL ends regular season with big games between Northern rivals and previously undefeated Sabres v. the Lions.

IFL logo 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
IFL logo 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The big victor of Week 15 in the Kraft Family IFL was a team that wasn’t even in action, as the results of the three one-sided contests set up a win-and-get-in opportunity for the ISD Jerusalem Kings, who will be traveling South this Thursday to the take on Travel Leader’s Beersheva Black Swarm in a ultra-intriguing regular season finale for both clubs.
The Black Swarm will also be playing for their playoff lives after improving to 4-5 on the season with a 59-6 conquest over the Northern Stars this past Saturday, although the Swarm now need the Stars to upset Nemo’s Haifa Underdogs in Friday’s Northern showdown to get into the dance even if they manage to overthrow the Kings.
The Big Blue Jerusalem Lions also clinched fourth place with a high-flying 62-38 victory over the Petah Tikva Troopers combined with the Talpion Judean Rebels getting blown out 54-6 by the Clal Tel Aviv Pioneers.
In fact, it was that same Rebels’ loss to send them to a 5-5 finish that kept the Kings in the race and took the Underdogs’ destiny out their own hands.
Just another crazy late-season dash in the IFL, as all four Week 16 contests should provide plenty to talk about, perhaps none more than Wednesday’s titanic clash for second place between the Pioneers and also 8-1 Hasharon Hammers.
On Friday, the Pioneers unveiled their shiny new weapon in the form of former California standout Joshua Henry, who dazzled his way to a pair of touchdowns and 97 yards of offense in his Israeli debut. What was thought of coming in as a closely-matched battle quickly turned into a rout, with pick-sixes from Or Zohar and Elan Neiger as well as a 43-yard punt return TD from Neiger staking the hosts to a 30-0 halftime lead at Tel Aviv University.
With TDs from Bar Rudich and Kobi Nimrod in the third quarter, the only question remaining entering the fourth was whether the Pioneers would notch the shutout, which ultimately was quashed by Dani Eastman with just 1:32 left on the clock.
That lone score was not much at all to hang their hats on for the Rebels, who are surely thankful to have already wrapped up their postseason berth, and would be done if not for their 6-point victory over the Lions at the start of February.
The Pioneers meanwhile, are all eyes turned towards this week match against the Hammers in Ramat Hasharon, with the winner earning a first-round bye and the loser hosting a wildcard game the following week.
Should the game end in a tie, and the teams finish with identical 8-1-1 records, the Hammers would earn the second-seed nod, based on the tie-break rules dealing with point differential.
The Lions-Troopers duel was close early, with PT earning the night’s first points on a Safety, but then allowing Big Blue to score four of the next five TDs to take a commanding 30-8 lead.
Garrett Moore did his best to keep the Troopers in it, but Lions’ counterpart Chaim Schiff was equally up to the task, tossing for 201 yards to Moore’s 183 and for 6 touchdowns and two interceptions to match Moore’s 4-TD, 3-INT stat-line.
Binyamin Schultz was the difference maker, reaching the endzone four times, including an electrifying 47- yard punt return for a score early in the fourth quarter to make it 54-22 at the time. Amit Sharabi’s second TD of the night gave the Troopers a fighting chance, but Shmuel Halpering put it to bed with his second scoring reception from Schiff as the Lions improved to 6- 3 with one game left against the undefeated Bourbon Street Tel Aviv/Jaffa Sabres.
The Black Swarm weren’t in the mood for any games in the Purim clash with the Stars, and TDs from Zac Labby, Tal Assor and Chen Doron put the hosts in front 21-0 by the break at Micha Reisser.
Roey Ziv would score the visitors’ only TD of the game on a two-yard pass from Jacob Friedman to open the third, but Labby and Assor would break loose from there on out, with Labby racing to three more touchdowns for a total of 4 on 137 yards rushing and Assor closing it out with a pair of late sprint to the endzone to cap his 81- yard performance.
Doron made three pretty catches and the Swarm easily overcame four lost fumbles, while the undermanned Stars were led by Ziv and rookie Adir Metker, but couldn’t really challenge their cross-country rival in falling to 1-8 on the campaign.
This week, the IFL finishes up the regular season with a packed four-game slate, beginning with Wednesday’s all important Hammers-Pioneers due and Thursday’s even-more-crucial Kings- Swarm marquee.
The Underdogs will have their eyes peeled to that game, although they had best prepare well for Friday’s first battle for Northern bragging rights between Haifa and Nahariya.
Saturday night’s cherry-topper has no playoff implication, but plenty of suspense in seeing whether the Lions can topple the Sabres and prevent them from repeating their perfect 10-0 mark from just a season ago.
For full Kraft Family IFL standings, stats and schedule, as well as for more information on pigskin in the Holy Land, please visit