Rebels, Sabres, Lions, Swarm all coast…for now
Lopsided scores continue to reign, however a number of epic showdowns just around the bend
Week 8 in the Kraft Family IFL may not have provided any big upsets, however the swashbuckling four-game slate certainly laid the groundwork for a number of blockbuster duels coming up over the next month, when coveted playoff positions will be on the line.
The early-weekend action got started on Wednesday in the capital, when the Northern Stars had front row seats to the latest episode of The Dani Eastman Show as the Talpion Judean Rebels road the coattails of their rookie star to a 64-6 conquest.
Just one night later, the Bourbon Street Tel Aviv/Jaffa Sabres paid a visit to Kraft Stadium to take on the ISD Jerusalem Kings and once again demonstrated that they are team to beat this season, improving to 6-0 with an emphatic 76-18 triumph that sent the Kings back under .500 at 2-3.
Friday morning featured the Big Blue Jerusalem Lions making the trip to Ramle, where they had very little trouble dispatching the expansion Rechovot Silverbacks by an all-too-familiar 84-0 scoreline behind seven total touchdowns by Chaim Schiff.
Saturday’s nights southern showdown between Travel Leaders’ Beersheva Black Swarm and the Petah Tikva Troopers had the most hope of being a tight affair and the initial indications were quite interesting as the Troopers opened the scoring on their first drive with a TD pass from Noam Shefer to Eli Mansdorf for an early 6-0 lead, PT’s first of the season.
The Black Swarm stormed back, with Tal Assor taking in the first of his five rushing touchdowns on the night to even the score and rookie Daniel Sarussi knocking in the extra point for a 7-6 BS advantage, which held up through the first quarter.
Petah Tikva’s defense seemed to play with a little more oomph, buckling down for a big goal-line stand and giving their offense a chance to stay in the game. Mor Klomiti and Avi Ron (both with 13 tackles) led the unit, with a strong supporting cast, however it was only a matter of time before little cracks began to appear.
Assor scored the only points of the second stanza, and also scrambled for another pair of third-quarter TDs for the only points of that frame as well.
Down 28-6 entering the fourth, the Troopers refused to concede defeat, and Shefer hit Sahar Yair on an 8-yard scoring slant with Netanel Vazana converting to cut the margin to just 14 points with almost 10 minutes left to turn the tide.
However, barely a minute later, Assor found a wide open Liran Krell, who raced to the house for a 20-yard touchdown that made the PT comeback all the more improbable. Assor fittingly closed out the scoring with an 11-yard dash around the end just inside the pylon and Sarussi’s fourth successful point-after kick split the uprights to put the finishing touches on the Swarm’s 42-14 victory.
Assor was the clear star for the victors, having an integral part in all of his teams TDs, but he had plenty of help on both sides of the ball. Tal Greenblatt totaled 99 all-purpose yards while Meir Perez barreled his way to 49 yards on the ground. Roi Artzi (6 tackles, two passes defended and an interception) and Sandro Kalandadze (6 tackles, two passes defended and a sack) paced the D, and helped Beersheva (2-4) get back to winning ways after a tough three-game losing skid.
The Troopers dropped to 0-5 on the season, however they have perhaps their biggest game of the season on deck, a clash with the Silverbacks on January 18 that Petah Tikva is eyeing as its best chance for a streak-starting opportunity.
For its part, Rechovot dropped to 0-6 in its inaugural campaign with its shellacking by the Lions on Friday, although injuries have began to pile up for the new franchise, making it difficult for it to execute its gameplan.
Big Blue took full advantage, scoring early and often in improving to 4-1 behind the horde of cheering fans from the Sharet elementary school. Schiff connected for two touchdowns apiece with three different receivers – Ory Refalowitz, Binyamin Schultz and Shmuel Halperin – while Rammeus Connour scored a pair on the ground to go along with three conversions, and Schultz, Schiff and Gai Van Straten each chipped in with rushing scores.
With their starting QB sidelined, Rechovot was unable to complete even one pass, with Amit Hezi the only real bright spot on a dismal offensive day for the Silverbacks, who also are looking forward to their duel with Petah Tikva for at least a fighting chance to snatch a win from their second-year rivals.
When it comes to rivalries, the IFL has none better than the Sabres and Clal Tel Aviv Pioneers, who are facing off in a delicious derby this Saturday night in Neve Golan. First, however, TAJ had some business to take care of in the capital against the Kings, who came in with visions of a shock victory.
Brandon McDougald put those thoughts to bed early, scoring a pair of easy touchdowns in the first quarter of Thursday’s contest to stake the defending champs to an early 14-0 lead.
The Sabres continued the barrage in the second frame, scoring four of the five TDs in the quarter – the last two from a returning-and-hungry Banning Fudge – to take a 34-6 lead into the break, and they were far from done.
Jordan Guin and Moshe Shor managed to get into the endzone for the Kings in the third in between Adi Hakami tossing two of his five scoring strikes – to Motti Krauze and Cory Zinker – and McDougald pounding in his fourth TD of the evening, and the final frame was all but a formality as the Sabres tacked on two more scores to complete the rout over cries of gamesmanship from the besieged Kings.
While their were plenty of jaw-dropping performances over the wild weekend, none were as scintillating as the display put on by Eastman on Wednesday night, when he scored an IFL-record eight touchdowns in every fashion imaginable.
Two kickoff return TDs, two scores on punt returns, a pick-six (among his two interceptions), two receiving touchdowns and the weirdest of them all, a recovery in the endzone after a four person fumble-fest put Eastman in a class of his own this weekend, although it did come against an ailing defense missing some of its core players.
Erez “Chico” Baharav tallied the only points of the game for the Northern Stars, who have just a few days off before hosting the Kings this Thursday night to kick off what is bound to be a pivotal Week 9 in the IFL.
Friday will see the Rebels travel north to face Nemo’s Haifa Underdogs in an intriguing battle of 3-3 clubs before Saturday’s TA derby finale that is sure to bring out the crowds.
The action just continues to heat up in the ensuing weeks with the 5-0 Hasharon Hammers visiting the Lions on the 17th, followed by the Troopers-Silverbacks marquee, the Pioneers (3-0) facing the Underdogs, the Rebels at the Hammers, and on and on right up until the playoffs in six weeks’ time.
So if you’re not excited yet, don’t worry, the best is yet to come.
For full Kraft Family IFL standings, stats and schedule, as well as for more information on pigskin in the Holy Land, please visit www.israel-football.co.il