Maranatha is taking advantage of a unique double opportunity this month—one that will give its students vivid educational, cultural, and spiritual lessons while helping to promote the worldwide popularity of American football.
A group of 27 Maranatha football players and coaches has been in Israel since May 6, preparing for a May 17 game against the All-Stars from the Israel Football League. It will mark the first time Israel has attempted to form a national team in American football.
The game against Maranatha, and the rise of American football in Israel, has caught the attention of media around the world. Read this account from an Israeli newspaper or this Yahoo! Sports blog (caution: objectionable language in embedded video) or this article in the Watertown Daily Times, or even this Facebook event page. The Israel football league caught the attention of the New York Times in 2010. The game will be televised in Israel.
Israel coach Yonah Mashaan told Israel Hayom, “We’re going to be playing a Division III team, which is definitely higher than our level right now. I think that once we get an idea of where we stand and what level we are, it will be a really good feeling.”
The IFL is transitioning from 8-man to 11-man football for the upcoming season. The league has grown from 80 players to more than 400.
Maranatha’s original contact with the IFL is alumnus Jay Armstead, who coaches the Haifa Underdogs. Their tour guide while in Israel will be Paul Karpenko, father of former Maranatha student Liz (Karpenko) Allen. Both Armstead and Paul Karpenko are long-time Israeli residents. The players will be helping the Armstead and Karpenko families in a variety of ways and will conduct four football clinics.
The student-athletes will see many sites of biblical significance while in Israel. Among them are the Sea of Galilee, Bethsaida, Caesarea, Masada, the Dead Sea, Jericho, the Mount of Olives, Gethsemane, the Wailing Wall, Bethlehem, Via Dolorosa, and the Temple Mount. The team will return May 19.
This is the third overseas trip for Maranatha’s football program, following ventures to France (1995) and Ireland (1998). The Crusaders played lopsided games against club teams on those trips; the competition this time is expected to be much stiffer.
Coaches Terry Price and Curt Malmanger and their wives and coach Phil Price are among the traveling party. The players scheduled to make the trip include Josiah Brendemuehl, Micah Burt, Drew DeLozier, Jordan Dersch, Joe Giovannucci, Brooks Groom, Thomas Hines, Ethan Hokanson, Tim Kelly, Ethan Kennon, Rob Kohlhaus, Ethan Lane, Phil Littrell, Joe Manion, Merrill Miller, Lance Nuckolls, Bobby O’Brien, William Peters, Benjamin Prickett, Ethan Rosen, Shane Saxon, and Mark Maize.