Local Football: Jerusalem takes inaugural IFL title

Big Blue comes back to take championship in OT in front of packed crowd.

big blue 224.88 (photo credit: Mitchell Barack/Courtesy)
big blue 224.88
(photo credit: Mitchell Barack/Courtesy)
Big Blue Jerusalem was crowned IFL champion on Friday with a 24-18 overtime victory over Real Housing Haifa, cementing its place in immortality as the Fieldturf Israel Football League's first title holder. The dramatic game was played in front of a capacity crowd of some 500 supporters at the Kraft Family Stadium in Jerusalem. Despite giving up 18 points, Jerusalem was able to overcome a 12-6 half time deficit by stymieing the Haifa offense for much of the second half. "The defense has been doing it all year and never, ever gotten the credit," Big Blue co-captain Yonah Mishaan said, "But there's one thing that can never be taken away from us - we got it done in the end and that's all that matters." The final was the second game of a season-ending double header at Kraft. Earlier in the day, the Mike's Place Tel Aviv Sabres came back from 12-0 down to secure third place in the league with a 40-20 spanking of the Dancing Camel Hasharon Pioneers. Running back Asaf Katz, out with a separated shoulder for the past two months, returned and led the way for Tel Aviv with an eye-popping four touchdowns. Katz combined with teammate Josh Klein, who racked up an interception, a touchdown and eight tackles, for game co-MVP honors. In the Israel Bowl title game, both Jerusalem and Haifa certainly came ready to play and from the opening kickoff, and settled into a tightly-fought, pound-for-pound fight for the finish line. Big Blue slowly marched down the field on an opening 10-play, 45-yard drive culminating in a 19 yard rumble into the endzone by Mishaan to open the scoring at 6:53 of the first quarter. Haifa countered with a touchdown of its own to start the second on a nine-yard quarterback scramble by backup Roey Ziv. Four minutes later, the visitors took the lead 12-6 when running back Leor Subotnik was able to turn the corner on the defense with the help of his blockers and scamper 30 yards down the sideline for a score. Going into halftime it looked as if Haifa had the momentum and the energy to pull off what would have been a massive upset, after losing the season series to Jerusalem, who only lost one game all year. Facing the prospect of being defeated by the second-place Underdogs on its home field for the championship crown, league MVP Moshe Horowitz showed why he was so deserving of the award, taking his Big Blue team on his broad shoulders with two successive touchdown runs in the third quarter of 28 and two yards respectively, to restore Jerusalem's lead at 18-12 going into the fourth quarter. Haifa refused to concede the game, regrouping as a team just like it has done all season. The game tying drive came with just 3:08 remaining, on another Subotnik TD just three plays after a desperation fourth-and-long completion for a first down by Ori Shterenbach to Idan Maor. When Jerusalem failed to score on its final chance in regulation, the game was sent to overtime. In the extra session, the teams were to trade possessions back and forth from their opponent's 25-yard line, with each team getting an attempt, until a winner was produced. Big Blue won the coin toss and scored on its opening drive on a fourth-down, 15-yard game-winning touchdown pass from Aryeh Bauman to Gai Van Straten that somehow found its way through a myriad of defensive traffic. Haifa valiantly tried to match with a score of its own to keep the game going, getting all the way to the Jerusalem seven-yard line. However, Shterenbach's last-effort pass on fourth down was broken up by Uri Schiff, sending the Big Blue players streaming jubilantly onto the field - champions, at last.