Rogers' Keon Rayford meets a wall of Start defenders during the first quarter at Start High School. The Rams are now 2-6 on the season, while the Spartans fell to 3-5.
THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON
Rogers dropped the ball in its first two attempts this season at winning a City League game.
Furthermore, Rogers had celebrated victory only once in seven weeks of competition entering Thursday night's City League meeting with Start.
A determined Rams team avoided a third straight league defeat when it outlasted the Spartans for a 12-8 win at Start.
"They were starving for this," Rogers coach Keith Dawson said. "They were absolutely starving for it, so I'm extremely proud of them."
Rogers came away with six turnovers, including a pair of interceptions by sophomore defensive back Mike Moore.
PHOTO GALLERY: Rogers Rams vs. Start Spartans
However, Rams defensive lineman Rondale Ensley was credited with the most significant turnover of the game when he picked up a dropped pass intended for a Start receiver and proceeded to return it 25 yards for touchdown. A television replay made it clear the pass thrown by Start quarterback Brandon Winters was an incomplete forward pass and not a lateral, which was what officials ruled when Ensley scooped up the loose ball and took it to the end zone.
"It hasn't always gone my way, so I'll call that a miracle because it definitely went our way," Dawson said of Ensley's defensive touchdown.
The score gave Rogers (2-6, 1-2 CL) a 12-0 lead in the second quarter, and the Rams held on to that advantage until Start (3-5, 2-1 CL) finally scored late in the fourth quarter.
"We just played as a team and we fought because we weren't taking a loss going back home," Moore said.
The Rams put points on the scoreboard first thanks to a stellar individual effort by Joshua Fowlkes to halt the Spartans' first possession in Rogers territory.
The senior defensive end came up with an interception of a Winters pass by initially deflecting the toss before hauling it into his arms and returning it 30 yards before getting tackled at the Spartans 35.
The Rogers’ offense took over and didn't waste the opportunity.
The Rams went 35 yards on 10 plays with Charles Carter finding Anthony Amison on a fade route for an 11-yard touchdown completion with 4:41 remaining in the opening quarter.
Rogers led 6-0 after a run attempt on a two-point try was unsuccessful.
The Rams added to their lead in the second quarter, but that came with scrutiny.
Ensley scored with 4:35 left in the second quarter.
Rogers went into halftime owning the two-touchdown lead.
Yet, the Spartans went into the locker room at the break feeling fortunate their deficit wasn't worse after being guilty of committing four turnovers in the first half.
Start's offense finally broke through for a score in the fourth quarter.
Winters found tight end Tremain Batson in the middle of the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown with 4:48 left in the contest.
After Spartans running back Jaquan Hughes ran in the the two-point conversion on an inside handoff, Start trailed 12-8.