Rebels upend Underdogs to kick off IFL preseason

Big Blue Jerusalem Lions get revenge against Arthur’s Tel Aviv/Jaffa Sabres in Kraft Family Israel Football League preseason opener with 40-20 victory before a pigskin-starved crowd.

IFL players 311 (photo credit: Dalya Sela)
IFL players 311
(photo credit: Dalya Sela)
The Big Blue Jerusalem Lions got a small measure of revenge against the Arthur’s Tel Aviv/Jaffa Sabres in the Kraft Family Israel Football League preseason opener with an emphatic 40-20 victory before a pigskin-starved crowd on Thursday night in the capital.
The next day up North, the Judean Rebels and Real Housing Haifa Underdogs got their 2010/11 campaigns started as well, with the Orangemen emerging with a feisty 34-19 triumph courtesy of a pair of length-of-field kickoff returns from Barbadian speedster Jon Millar.
The Sabres, who captured the 2009/20 Israel Bowl title with a thrilling conquest of the Lions on the same turf at Kraft Stadium just five months earlier, were victimized by an old nemesis, Jerusalem quarterback Itai Ashkenazi, who was in stunning first-game form while shredding the TA/J defense with three touchdowns and no turnovers. His counterpart, fourth-year IFL veteran Adi Hakami, was sharp early, but tailed off in the second half and gave way to firsttime signal caller Adam Zenou, who proved to be no more effective in relief.
Lions’ receiver Binyamin Schultz made a dazzling IFL debut, with a pair of touchdown grabs from the slot position, while Idan Yaron was his dependable self with a pair of scores as well as Big Blue claimed a convincing victory in Yonah Mishaan’s first game at the helm.
However, as Sabres’ coach Jon Sharon rightfully pointed out at the end of the contest, “The final score of a preseason contest means absolutely nothing.
It is all about getting some of the rust off and reestablishing chemistry. I am happy with our effort without having to look at the scoreboard.”
On Friday, it was certainly a pair of revamped squads that faced off in Yokne’am, with both the Rebels and Underdogs fielding more than 20 rookies on their rosters.
Most notably, Alex Swieca made an impressive debut for Judea at QB while Haifa – welcoming back returning head coach Ori Shterenbach – finally seems to have found the receiving core to complement fourthyear vet Shahar Yeshurun.
Except for Millar’s theatrics, the game was back-and-forth throughout and the teams seemed fairly evenly matched, albeit in clear preseason form.
However, all seven other teams were put on early notice that unless they find a way to neutralize the Rebels’ specialteams super-weapon, the Orangemen will be a tough date on anyone’s calendar.
Looking ahead at the IFL schedule, the preseason will continue for another two weeks, with the Lions in Tel Aviv to face the newly relocated Pioneers this Friday and the expansion Herzliya Hammer to kick off the franchise’s first game in Beersheva on Saturday night against the host Black Swarm.
This season, with eight teams, the IFL has divided into two regional conferences of four clubs each. The Lions, Black Swarm, Rebels and Papagaio Jerusalem Kings will make up the Southern Conference, while the Sabres, Underdogs, Pioneers and Hammer will comprise the Northern Conference.
Each team will play a home-and- away series with the conference rivals while playing each opponent from the other division one time, for a total of 10 games.
The regular season opens on Thursday, November 4, in Jerusalem with a Lions-Rebels, Kings-Black Swarm doubleheader extravaganza. Israel Bowl IV is set for Friday, March 18, in the capital.
Sport5 will be back on board to cover the fourth season of tackle football in Israel on television while the brand-new Israel Sports Radio will be the home for the IFL, with live games on Thursday nights throughout the season.
For more information on the Kraft Family Israel Football League, please visit