Eight weeks into the high school football season, the Rogers offensive unit felt like it was long overdue in making an impact on the team's success.
Led by the passing and running of junior quarterback Ronney Hester last night, the Ram offense finally made that impact in taking a 28-18 City League victory over the visiting Waite Indians.
Hester was 13-of-19 passing for 182 yards and a touchdown, plus ran 19 times for 60 yards and Rogers' other three TDs as the Rams (6-2, 4-1 CL) climbed a step closer to a potential Division II state playoff berth.
Entering this game, Rogers had outscored foes just 87-82 through seven games.
"Our offense kind of took it personal," Ram coach Rick Rios said. "They know that they haven't performed at the level they need to be performing at if we want to be a playoff team, and tonight they did a lot of nice things."
On a night when the defense allowed Waite 300 rushing yards on 50 attempts, the Ram offense arrived in the nick of time.
The stat sheet was deceiving after one half, as Waite (3-5, 2-3) dominated time of possession, 17:51 to 6:09, and plays run,
41-19, plus led 194-172 in yardage only to trail 14-12.
Waite drove 49 yards on 11 plays, with running back Bryan Burrell plunging in from the 1 with 10:30 left in the half.
Rogers answered, moving 69 yards on seven plays, with Hester hitting Myshan Veasley-Pettis on a 40-yard catch-and-run TD 7:32 before halftime.
"We've given that up all year," Waite coach John Johnson said of big plays. "We did it early in the year, we did it last week, and we went back to the same stuff tonight. They just had more speed than we had."
Waite then covered 75 yards on 13 plays, the longest a 14-yard pass from Howie LaCourse to sophomore running back Ray Parker. LaCourse scored from the 1 for a 12-7 edge with 1:59 left in the half.
"That was the one thing I was afraid of with them," Rios said of Waite's running game. "They had a good win over Clay last week and they've shown, throughout the season, that they can be physical and manhandle you at times. For a while, they four-yarded us to death."
Waite left just enough time for Hester and the Rams to retake the lead. Hester completed five straight passes totaling 70 yards, and capped things with a pair of three-yard runs for a 14-12 lead just 33.2 seconds before halftime.
"I was seeing the field real well," Hester said. "I did a lot of things that I don't usually do, like step up in the pocket. I [usually] try to leave the pocket.
"Coach said all week that this was going to be the week that the offense showed up."
The Rams took advantage of the third of Waite's five turnovers in the game, this one an early second-half fumble by Parker, recovered by Willie Hawthorne at the Indian 29.
Jermaine Dykes made a leaping catch on a 25-yard pass from Hester on the next play, and Hester's four-yard TD on a keeper made it a 20-12 edge 3:45 into the third quarter.
Parker (20 carries, 155 yards) later bolted around left end and down the sideline 85 yards for a TD with 57.7 seconds left in the third.
LaCourse hit Roger Davis on a potential game-tying two-point conversion try, but Waite was penalized for interference. Its subsequent PAT pass failed.
Waite's fourth giveaway was also damaging. Veasley-Pettis intercepted LaCourse and returned the ball 20 yards to the Tribe 8, setting up Hester's one-yard TD run with 7:28 to play. Sophomore Isaiah Ballard (7 carries, 102 yards) scored Rogers' last points on a conversion run.