Tel Aviv/Jaffa Sabres crowned champs again

The Bourbon Street Tel Aviv/Jaffa Sabres defeat Talpion Judean Rebels 48-26 at the Kraft Family IFL’s championship game.

Tel Aviv/Jaffa Sabres 370 (photo credit: Courtesy IFL)
Tel Aviv/Jaffa Sabres 370
(photo credit: Courtesy IFL)
Israel Bowl VI was a season-defining game in every sense as the sixth year of Israeli tackle football came to a close with the Bourbon Street Tel Aviv/Jaffa Sabres subduing the Talpion Judean Rebels 48-26 in the latest epic rendition of the Kraft Family IFL’s championship game.
Friday’s enchanting encounter at Kraft Stadium in Jerusalem was chock-full of action, and turned into a more competitive contest than most had anticipated, with the Rebels even holding a short-lived 3rd-quarter lead before the Sabres turned on the turbo-jets and coasted to their second-consecutive title while sealing the first undefeated season in IFL history.
“It really feels fantastic to come away as champions for the third time in the last four years,” exclaimed TA/J Coach Jon Sharon, who was ejected late in the fourth quarter for cursing at the referees even while his team enjoyed a two-score advantage at the time.
“We’ve been to the last four Israel Bowls, and now having avenged our only defeat, it is a real testament to both the talent and chemistry of this team and to the staying-power of this franchise. It really is starting to become a true dynasty.”
The Rebels and their 18-year old star, Dani Eastman, threw all they could at the Sabres, but in the end the sheer volume of combined skill and experience on the Bourbon Street sideline was simply insurmountable.
As always, Adi Hakami was at the forefront of the Sabres’ offense, throwing for 196 yards and 3 touchdowns while not turning the ball over. His 12- yard pass to Banning Fudge opened the scoring after the Rebels chose to accept a thirdyard penalty to push the Redshirts further back from their goal-line; to no avail.
Still, Eastman fed Jaymes Kine for a long gain through the air, before equalizing the match with a 6-yard TD burst and the first quarter came to a close with the teams knotted at six.
More than 800 people packed into Kraft on what began as a glorious day before the winds gusted in and the skies dimmed just as the second stanza was getting under way.
With the action being recorded for television and radio broadcasts across both Israel and the US, the crowd in attendance was decidedly pro-Rebels, or perhaps just pro any team that could give the mighty Sabres a run for their money.
Brandon McDougald put the Redshirts back on top with a 2- yard shimmy into the endzone, although just two minutes later, Eastman found a wide-open Kine for a 24-yard score to tie things up once again.
Jonathan Curran made his presence known by taking a 22-yard reverse to the house for an 18-12 TA/J lead before both sides’ QBs committed critical gaffes going into halftime, with Hakami and Eastman each finding receivers for apparent TDs, only to have them correctly called back for having just crossed the line of scrimmage before releasing the ball.
Both coaching staffs made adjustments during the break to account for what was quickly becoming quite a chippy game, on and off the field, and it seemed as if both squads themselves were somewhat surprised at where things stood after 24 minutes of play.
The Judeans started with possession in the second half, and a long, penalty-aided 15- play drive culminated with Eastman taking in his second rushing touchdown of the afternoon to even the encounter, before he flicked a little pass to Doni Foreman up the middle for the ensuing conversion and a 20-18 Rebels’ advantage with under 17 minutes remaining in the game.
With the backs up against the wall in a second half for one of the only times all season, the Sabres responded like gangbusters, with Hakami tossing a quick-out to Curran, who flew up the sidelines for a 51-yard catch-and-run TD and cherry-on-top conversion to hand the lead back to the reigning champions, ultimately for good.
Before the 3rd quarter was over, Fudge had scored his second touchdown of the game – on a 26-yard scoring punt-return – and the dynamic playmaker tacked on his third TD to start the 4th frame on a 6-yard dash.
Down 22 points with less than six minutes remaining, the Rebels still refused to throw in the towel even as they began to feel the game slipping away.
Eastman kept on dancing in the backfield (although the Sabres did manage to sack him 7 times) and he had 24 of the Orangemen’s 26 rushes for 128 of their 134 yards on the ground. He finished a pedestrian 14-36 for 136 yards passing with a pair of TDs and one interception, that being to Curran midway through the 4th at the Sabres goal-line to strike the nail-in-the-coffin blow to the Judeans’ hopes of a miracle comeback.
After Coach Sharon’s ejection, Eastman’s 2-yard scoring strike to Kine with 33 seconds left on the clock seemed like a curtain-closing touchdown on the 2012/13 IFL season, however the Sabres still had a final bit of class left up their sleeves.
After recovering the Rebels’ onside kick, in an act that can only be described (cleanly) as the height of gamesmanship, Hakami faked a victory-formation kneel before tossing up a rainbow that Curran settled under 32 yards later for a final score and the finishing touches of another masterpiece campaign.
If anything, that touchdown secured the game’s co-MVP award for Curran, who shared the honor with his teammate, Fudge, both who had felt somewhat ‘snubbed’ by not being nominated for various league-wide awards.
They certainly made their statements to the committee loud and clear with their play, as Fudge (3 touchdowns in three different ways to go along with 10 tackles and a sack) and Curran (195 total yards, 3 touchdowns, 4 tackles, pass break-up, INT) left no room for reproach as to their impact on the Sabres’ successful title defense.
In the end, just as they had done to each of their previous 11 opponents this year, the Tel Aviv/Jaffa Sabres undeniably demonstrated their superiority and were able to swat away any challenges thrown at them.
Content with the bulls-eye painted squarely on their backs, the Sabres will surely revel in conquering the Rebels and their back-to-back championships and then retool and come back next season boldly daring any and all contenders to step up and even try to take their crown away.