Jacksonville holds off VooDoo, setting up important finale

The VooDoo’s 58-49 loss Saturday night to the South Division champion Jacksonville Sharks placed the home team in an uncomfortable situation. One the VooDoo would have preferred to control, had the outcome at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome ended differently.

Instead of feeling pleased with its late-season improvements, the VooDoo was forced after its home finale to follow scoreboards around the Arena Football League to learn if its playoff hopes were still alive.

The news came around 9:10 p.m.: Cleveland defeated Orlando 65-62, setting up next week’s showdown in Florida.

The winner between VooDoo (5-12) and Orlando (6-10) earns the final wild-card spot.

Had the VooDoo finished their Saturday night comeback, they would have enjoyed a more comfortable Saturday night.

“We just didn’t finish,” said receiver Donovan Morgan, who caught a team-high six passes for 112 yards and three touchdowns. “Like coach (Pat O’Hara) said, I think we got lackadaisical towards the end, thinking we had it. Man, we just beat ourselves.”

After trailing Jacksonville 28-7 early Saturday in the second quarter, the VooDoo, led by quarterback Chris Dixon, rallied to within three points by the fourth. Dixon’s 8-yard TD pass to L.J. Castile trimmed the deficit to 45-42.

On defense, the VooDoo was poised to return possession to their offense, with Jacksonville facing a third-and-25. But defensive lineman Michael Janac was called for an offsides penalty, resulting in an automatic first down.

Two plays later, quarterback Bernard Morris scored from three yards.

“We battled back from the first half, made it a one possession game,” O’Hara said. “But it’s disappointing, the couple of silly mistakes in the fourth quarter. The penalties hurt us.”

Not that the VooDoo was completely out of the game.

With 3:46 left, Dixon followed with his seventh TD pass, finding Castile again for a 38-yard score on fourth down.

But when the VooDoo needed to stop Jacksonville, the Sharks completed a seven-play, 46-yard drive, capped by Morris’ second rushing score of the game.

Dixon completed 18 of 30 passes for 262 yards and seven TDs. He was intercepted once and sacked seven times.

Castile, who caught both of his scores in the fourth quarter, finished with four receptions for 76 yards.

For Jacksonville (11-6), Morris passed for 250 yards and five scores. He connected three times in the end zone with Jeron Harvey, who finished with 115 receiving yards on nine catches.