Only four horses left in the race

Rebels run over Swarm to earn third crack at Lions; Pioneers handle Hammers, Sabres await in semis.

THE TEL AVIV PIONEERS 311 (photo credit: Amon Azmor)
(photo credit: Amon Azmor)
Wildcard weekend stayed true to its billing in the Kraft Family IFL, with a pair of plucky upstarts justifying their playoff spots, but the two favorites ultimately coming through with landslide victories to set up mouthwatering semifinal duels.
On Thursday night in the capital, after an early hiccup the Gush Texas Judean Rebels juggernaut continued its recent roll with a 44-12 dispatching of the Travel Leaders Beersheva Black Swarm behind strong performances from an array of shining stars.
The next day, the Dancing Camel Tel Aviv Pioneers absorbed all that Leo Bloom’s Herzliya Hammers could throw at it before finding a second wind and running away with a 50-16 home triumph, all seven touchdowns coming on the ground.
Herzliya certainly put a scare into the North Division’s second seed in front of the bipartisan TA University crowd – scoring first and even holding a lead late in the third quarter.
But buoyed by a crucial (and correctly called) free-kick recovery by Jenya Glutzman, the Pioneers got three TDs from Dan Sherrof and a pair apiece from Kobi Nimrod and Jarod Wallerstein to ward off the Hammers’ valiant challenge and earn a Saturday- night date in Neve Golan with the reigning-champion Arthurs’ Tel Aviv/Jaffa Sabres.
Gush Texas, as well, secured a third opportunity to tame the Big Blue Jerusalem Lions by relying on what had worked for it all season long to neutralize Beersheva’s confidence and athleticism.
Alex Swieca threw for three scores, while Joe Martisius, Zack Miller and David Arshavsky each made multiple trips to the endzone as the Rebels overcame a 6-0 deficit with seven of the next eight touchdowns to overwhelm their Southern opponents.
Brandon McDougald and Koren Cohen got to the house for the Swarm, but all too often the pair of playmakers were stymied by the resurgent Rebels defense, led by Mordy Tryfus (14 tackles, fumble recovery) and the Elayyan brothers (23 combined tackles).
“Our defense definitely carried us in this one,” said Martisius, who maintained that this was not a win that the Orangemen had taken for granted.
“We know we can put up points, but for us to be playing this well on both sides of the ball makes us that much more confident heading into another showdown with the Lions.”
Indeed, Thursday night’s marquee clash at Kraft Stadium is sure to set off all the fireworks.
Big Blue swept the regular-season meetings between the clubs, but knows how tough it is to beat a tough opponent three times in one year.
“You can’t call us the favorite in our semifinal against the Rebels,” argued Jerusalem coach Yonah Mishaan. “Yes, we beat them twice so far, but that was the regular season. Look at all their talent. For us to beat them again would have to be considered something of an upset.”
Well, there is still a few more days of mind-games and posturing, but come Thursday and Saturday, the war of words will be over and it will all be left out on the field, with the pieces to fall as they may.
Lions-Rebels III; Sabres-Pioneers: The rubber-match! A more high-octane weekend the IFL has never had.
It all starts at Kraft Stadium on Thursday at 8 p.m. Saturday night, Neve Golan 9 p.m.
You don’t want to miss it!