The Kraft Family Israel Football League had two very close games this past weekend. On Thursday night, the Petah Tikva Troopers overcame an early hole in a game that they were completely dominated (other than on the scoreboard), and beat the Haifa ‘Nemo’s’ Underdogs 12-9. On Saturday night, the Judean Rebels cruised to a 32-8 halftime lead over the Beersheva Black Swarm and barely held on to win 32-28.
Petah Tikva Troopers 12 – Haifa ‘Nemo’s’ Underdogs 9
It was a strange game on Thursday night in Petah Tikva. Haifa thoroughly dominated the game, but a few big plays by the Troopers and missed opportunities by the Underdogs gave the home team the ‘W’.
The Troopers started off with a punt, and Haifa’s Harrison Duke-Fearnley missed a 29-yard field goal. Haifa’s Aviv Sarig intercepted an Avrami Farkas pass, but the Troopers’ Matis Goldmeier picked off a Ron Dafni pass. A personal foul against the Troopers on the run-back pushed them back, and after a bad snap, Farkas was sacked in the end-zone for a safety, 2-0 Haifa. Duke-Fearnley missed a 31-yard field goal, but intercepted a Farkas pass two plays later. Haifa went on a 10-play, 5-minute drive but turned the ball over on downs. Petah Tikva went 3-and-out but Elior Kanfi missed a field goal attempt for Haifa with just over a minute to play. Petah Tikva didn’t make a lot of plays during the game but when they did, they were big ones. Farkas hit Jonathan Curran for 42 yards up the sideline and on the very next play found Jesse Hartman for a PT score, 6-2 at the break.
Haifa went on another long drive to start the second half, and this one ended with a TD pass from Dafni to Matan Fourier, 9-6. The Troopers punted and Haifa turned the ball over on downs. Farkas connected with Hartman for another TD with 8 minutes left in the game, 12-9. Haifa drove the field with a 12-play, 6:31-long drive, including a 4th-and-1, 27-yard fake-punt run by Rudy Rattner, but a huge holding penalty pushed Haifa away from the goal-line and they came up empty. Petah Tikva’s Chris Daves was able to pick up a first down and run out the clock.
The game had a surprise guest, as former Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Fiedler, possibly the best Jewish quarterback ever to play in the N.F.L., showed up during the third quarter for an Israeli helping of Thanksgiving football. After the game addressed the teams and wished them luck on their seasons.
Farkas completed 7/15 passes for 111 yards, 2 scores and 2 picks. Hartman caught 3-40-2 and Curran caught 3 for 60. Daves had 34 yards on 6 carries. Ahmed Abu Gaber and Daves had 11 and 9 tackles, respectively. Aryeh Eastman had 7, 1 TFL and a pair of break-ups, and Yair Ben-Moshe added 7 and a break-up.
Dafni completed 14/26 passes for 79 yards, a score and a pick, adding 28 yards on the ground. Hillel Meran continued his strong start to the season with 24 carries for 119 yards. Fourier caught 4-44-1. Rattner had 5 tackles and 1.5 sacks and Rephael Blum had 5 and a TFL. Sarig had 3, a pick and a break-up.
The Underdogs travel next week to the Kraft Family Sports Campus to face the Lions, and the Troopers travel to Beersheva the following Saturday night.
Judean Rebels 32 – Beersheva Black Swarm 28
The Judeans turned the ball over on downs on the first drive of the game, but LB Avraham Fisgus tackled Beersheva’s Wesley D’oge for a loss on the ensuing Swarm 4th down. QB Chaim Aaron took in a keeper to put the guests up 8-0 in the middle of the first quarter and then threw a touchdown pass to Daniel Yerushalmi, making it 16-0 after a Jason Hess interception off of Beersheva QB Matanel Katz. Beersheva’s Ronnie Hayes took the ensuing kickoff 73 yards to the house, making it a 16-8 game. Ikey Bodner ran in a 19-yard score on 3rd-and-2 to start the second quarter, putting the Rebels up 24-8. After a successful onside kick, the Rebels drove the field but were stopped short on the 2-yard line as Nadav Eliyahu and Sandro Kalandadze stuffed Omree Gottlieb. The Rebels defense made up for it as Uria Loberbom tackled D’oge in the end-zone for a safety, 26-8. Aaron got hurt and left the game on the Rebels’ next drive and they punted the ball away. Katz threw another interception, this one to Zev Hoffman, and Gottlieb pounded in a score, making it 32-8 just before halftime. The Rebels’ Evyatar Cohen recovered a bad Beersheva snap, but the hosts’ defense didn’t allow another score before the break, or for that matter for the rest of the game.
The Rebels defense forced a turnover on downs, but the offense looked lost without their leader and they punted after going 3-and-out. Katz threw a 4th-down touchdown to Ronen Knobel (32-14) and the Rebels punted again to start the 4th quarter. Katz threw a 26-yard TD to Hayes with just over 8 minutes to play, 32-22, and the Rebels punted yet again. Katz immediately hit Hayes for another TD, bringing the Swarm to within one score at 32-28, with 6 minutes to play. The Rebels were able to milk almost 4 minutes off of the clock with their next drive, but punted the ball again, giving the Swarm 2 minutes to complete an improbable comeback. Katz completed a 22-yarder to Tomare Curran, but the Rebels’ pass defense, which had been abused during the second half, held fast as Rafi Friedman picked off Katz’s desperation heave and the guests held on for victory.
Aaron completed 9/17 passes for 99 yards and a score, adding 46 yards and a score on the ground before leaving the game in the 2nd quarter. Gottlieb had 74 yards and a score on 21 carries and Yerushalmi caught 4-40-1. Hess lead the defense with 3 tackles, 2 break-ups and a pick and Hoffman added 2 and a pick.
Katz completed 9/23 passes for 152 yards, 3 scores and 3 picks, leading the team with 34 yards rushing. Hayes caught 4 balls for 81 yards and 2 scores. The defense was busy as 7 players recorded 4 tackles or more. Sandro Kalandadze had 9 tackles and 3 TFL, and Ehud Klein recorded 9 as well. Michael Witman added 7 and 2 sacks, and Edi Peru had 6, 2 TFL, a sack and a forced fumble.
The Rebels host the Mazkeret Batya Silverbacks this Thursday at the Kraft Family Sports Campus in Jerusalem, and the Black Swarm travel to Beit Dani in Tel Aviv to take on the Pioneers on Saturday night.