If this was going to be the last time the New Orleans VooDoo got an opportunity to play in front of their New Orleans fans, they wanted to make sure they went out with a win.
With the Arena Football League announcing its intentions this week to take over the operations of the VooDoo for the remainder of the season, some have speculated that Saturday’s game will be the team’s final home game in New Orleans.
With that in mind, the VooDoo (3-12) put on a show for the hometown fans, holding on to a 65-53 win over the Tampa Bay Storm at the Smoothie King Center, snapping the team’s eight-game losing streak.
“It’s awesome for our players, our staff and this hometown crowd tonight,” VooDoo coach Dean Cokinos said. “Our guys have fought hard all year and have just fell short, and to see them finally break through tonight was great.”
VooDoo quarterback Adam Kennedy finished the game completing 12 of his 19 passes for 241 yards and seven total touchdowns, and Roger Jackson led all New Orleans receivers with four catches for 123 yards and three touchdowns as well as a fumble recovery.
Storm quarterback Jason Boltus ended the day going 31-for-44 for 306 yards and seven touchdowns, while Phillip Barnett led the way for the Storm receiving group, hauling in 10 passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns.
“This was the most emotional game I’ve ever played in,” said Jackson, a Westwego native. “Our guys have been fighting all year, and to come out and get this win for our home fans tonight was so great.”
The third quarter has been a struggle for the VooDoo all season, and while many of the team’s losses can be traced back to poor third-quarter performances, New Orleans’ domination of that on Saturday was a major reason behind what may end up being the team’s final win in New Orleans.
Coming into Saturday, the VooDoo had been outscored 190-70 during the third period, but New Orleans took control of the game by outscoring the Storm 20-7 in the third.
“It was a different night for us in a lot of ways,” Cokinos said. “Tonight we finally got our roster where we wanted, and our guys just stepped on the gas in the second half.”
New Orleans grabbed its first lead on the first play of the second half when Kennedy connected with Jackson for a 35-yard touchdown pass that gave the VooDoo a 30-28 advantage after a missed extra-point attempt by kicker T.C. Stevens.
Kennedy then added a 23-yard touchdown pass on fourth down to Johnny Lester and a 3-yard touchdown run to balloon the lead up to 44-28.
The Storm (6-9) cut the lead to 51-41 with 8:40 left in the fourth quarter, but Lester ran in a 1-yard touchdown that extended the VooDoo lead to 58-41 and pretty much put the game out of reach for the Storm.
“A lot of times during these types of these games this year we’ve gotten discouraged,” Jackson said. “But tonight we just kept fighting through and refused to lose.”
After falling into an early double-digit hole, the VooDoo struggled to get back within striking distance in the first half.
With the Storm leading 28-17 midway through the second quarter, New Orleans responded with a quick-striking 42-yard touchdown pass from Kennedy to Duvalt to cut their deficit down to 28-24.
The Storm marched the ball deep into VooDoo territory and had an opportunity to put one more score on the board before halftime, but the defense forced a turnover on downs with four seconds remaining in half.