Here's the Yedioth Ahronot story that appeared on Thursday in the Hewbrew newspaper edition, starting on the front page:
IDF chief's son battles Judean Rebels
Itay Ashkenazi says tried to avoid 'massive' Palestinian defenders who play for settler football team. Rival captain: This is about more than just sports
The settler [???] football team Judean Rebels, which lead the Israeli Football League after seven games, faced the league's second best team - the Jerusalem Lions - on Thursday, in what was dubbed as the "game of the season."
The star players who lined up on opposite sides of the line of scrimmage certainly added another dimension to the game. On the one side - Itay Ashkenazi, the son of outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. On the other - three Palestinians from Ramallah who will try to sack the Lions' star quarterback whenever they get the chance.
"I separate football from everything else," Ashkenazi, 31, told the Yedioth Ahronoth daily before the game. "On the field it doesn’t help me that my father is the army chief, and it's not a big deal to me, just like I don’t care if the players on the opposing team are Christian, Muslim or Druze. I see them only as football players who are playing against me.
"Naturally, they’ll be looking for my head - to hurt the quarterback - because that's how the game is played, but it is only about sports – and may the best team win," he said.
The brothers Ayoub, Muhammad and Mussa Alian are the star defensive players for the Rebels. After moving from California to the West Bank city of Ramallah about three years ago, the brothers joined the Rebels, a team of settlers which is supported by Breslov hasidim.
The brothers leave Ramallah several hours before each game in case they are delayed at IDF checkpoints along the way. "I really don’t mind playing for a settler team, as long as it helps me realize my dream of playing for a good college team in the US next year," Ayoub said.
"Ashkenazi's son? That doesn't really concern us. We're not into politics," he said.
The three Palestinians practiced with the Lions before joining the Rebels. "We welcomed them with open arms," Ashkenazi said. "They are massive players, and it would be wise of me to try and avoid them during the game."
"Now it's time to prove that we are the better team," Rebels captain Shlomo Shechter said. "This isn’t just about control of the league; it's about control of Jerusalem. This is about more than just sports."
Ashkenazi likened the football league to the IDF: "It's a social melting pot. Just like in the army, the physical challenges bring the people together. The league has Filipinos, Muslims, Jews and Circassians. This is how real coexistence looks like."
The Lions trounced the Rebels 40-16.
The score is always the most important item.
From the IFL site:
Big Blue played almost error-free ball, coming in with an air-tight gameplan and executing it to perfection to jump into sole possession of first place in the division with a much more convincing conquest of the Rebels than the season-opening two-point squeaker.
“They’ve been the best team in the league all season,” said Lions’ coach Yonah Mishaan. “We knew we had to come in ultra prepared to have a chance to beat them. I’m really glad with the way things turned out this time, but I have a feeling this great rivalry isn’t done.”
For now, at least, Big Blue continued its dominance of the Rebels, improving to 4-0 in their lifetime head-to-head, and remaining the only team in the league that has shown the ability to disrupt the Gush Texas offense.
With a mixture of outside blitzes, physical cornerback play, and plain brute strength, the Lions forced the Rebels into three critical fumbles, while not turning over the ball themselves. QB Itay Ashkenazi continued his sparkling run of late, missing on just six of his 21 pass attempts and throwing for 191 yards and five touchdowns, three to Idan Yaron and a pair to Binyamin Schultz.
On defense, the Lions (7-1) were just as dazzling, racking up six sacks for 38 yards and holding a vaunted Rebels offense to almost 27 points less than its average coming in. Yoni Cooper (10 tackles, 3 sacks) and Scott Eisenberg (20 tackles) led the way, but there was plenty of help all around, including a key Kasey Stewart touchdown on a fumble recovery in the endzone when the game was still tight.
For the Rebels (6-2), who have only been beaten by Big Blue this season, they hope it was just a much-needed wake-up call to jolt some fear into the team heading into the playoffs.
Both Alex Swieca (4-11, 62 yards) and Joe Martisius (2 crucial fumbles, although he did have a TD and 14 tackles) put up rare bad games as the offense sputtered badly for most of the night. Zack Miller (60 yards rushing) and Jon Millar (149 total yards, TD) were among the only bright spots for the Orangemen, playing with heart and poise, although Millar had to leave in the third quarter with a back injury that was later diagnosed as (thankfully) a bad bruise.
All in all, a game to forget and move on from the Rebels stand-point and one to build upon and be proud of for the surging Lions.