On Friday morning (Dec. 4th), the Haifa Underdogs met with the Ramat Ha’Sharon Hammers for another top-4 match in the Israel Football League. The Underdogs just defeated last year’s champions – the Judean Rebels on the road in Ma’ale Adumim.
Although Haifa’s starting TE Amit Kolton was missing from the game, transfer TE Amitai Chubinsky stepped up and took his place as the next man up. It was a perfect weather for football, temperature was a solid 15º with no wind nor rain to interfere in the game at Tirat Ha’Carmel Stadium.
Hammers were the first to put points on the board, with a pass from Hakami to Curran, after which they were not able to get the 2-point conversion. Haifa didn’t wait long and the Underdogs QB Matt Kauffman found veteran WR Nimrod Smith for a touchdown to tie the game but like previous week, the offense had issues gaining the 2-point after a great drive.
Underdogs D were able to stop the Hammers from scoring and Haifa received the ball, just to have Kauffman putting the ball in Smith’s hands once again for another touchdown near the end of the 1st quarter. During the 2nd quarter Guy Halberthal caused a fumble which was recovered by Harrison Fearnley; unfortunately it wasn’t enough and both team didn’t put any points up until half-time.
The 2nd half started similar to the 2nd quarter, both teams fighting to get to the endzones but end up punting several times. It was Matt Kauffman who sneaked the ball in the endzone close to the end of the 3rd quarter, putting Haifa at 18-6. Once again, the offense had a tough time in goal-line and weren’t able to score. After a 12 points lead, Ramat Ha’Sharon’s RB Jovani Patterson rushed in for the score, minimizing the difference to 18-12, making it a 1-score game.
On a kick-return, Haifa’s return specialist Tamir Shinar fumbled the ball during the return, putting the Hammers in a great position and allowing them to score, this time it was Tomare Curran who evened the score, 18-18.
Haifa’s offense wasn’t able to produce anything and a poor pass by Kauffman was intercepted by Jonathan Curran on 3rd and long at the Hammers own 15 yard line. With the Hammers keep testing Haifa’s defense, they came short and like that the game went to overtime.
On the first drive of overtime, Adi Hakami found Jonathan Curran again for his 3rd touchdown to give his team the lead again, due to a strong Underdogs defense on goal, they were not able to score a 2-point attempt. Underdogs received the ball again and marched down the field, finally Kauffman connected with WR Ran Breuer to tie the game again at 24-24.
It was possibly the last play on overtime and coach Armstead and Shterenbach decided to go for an extra-point. Ran Breuer was placed to hold for Fearnley, whose extra point attempt on the game was his first ever in an actual game. The ball was snapped to Breuer’s hands, and Fearnley delivered the final blow – Underdogs won 25-24 and for the first time in IFL history, a game was won on overtime with extra-point.
Kauffman finished 18 / 29 for 157 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, and a rushing TD, Williams led the running effort with 67 yards rushing and Nimrod Smith had 8 passes 53 yards and 2 TDs.
Rudy Rattner led the defense with 10 tackles and a break-up and Guy Halberthal finished with 7 tackles, 2 of them for loss, 1 forced fumble and 2 break ups.
Kauffman and Fearnley were both awarded IFL Week 2 Player of The Week, Kauffman on offense for the 2nd straight week and Fearnley for special teams.
The win puts the team in a great position, starting 2-0, defeating 2 major opponents, though few things have to change before the next match. Offense has to get their act together and score on PAT, 3 touchdowns in the game left unanswered putting the team in risk; if they were to score even once they would not go to overtime. On defense Mica Allon keeps playing at LB instead of Safety, doing a wonderful job using his strength to help against the run and covering passes due to his experience as a DB. A point to improve on is stopping the big plays from happening, a job for the team’s secondary who can’t let 20-yard passes caught too often, with that in mind we have to remember that to fill in the gap left by Allon moving to LB is Nimrod Smith, playing in that position for the first time and simultaneously plays on offense.
The next game will be played on December 18th vs. Tel-Aviv Pioneers at home, meaning the team will have a bye-week to prepare for the match. Last season they were not able to defeat Tel-Aviv even once in all 3 matches (2 regular season games and 1 in playoffs), Haifa will do their best to make amends for losing last season and not winning again the Pioneers for 4 season – hopefully their winning streak will go on for another game.