For a majority of the night, when Latta needed a big play on offense, it turned to senior running back RJ McClam. It was no different on the biggest play of the game.
With 4:06 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Vikings facing a fourth-and-8 in War Eagles’ territory, McClam had the ball in his hands again. Only this time he was throwing it.
He had a receiver open, but the pass came up short. That was the last real threat Wagener-Salley faced in the 33-28 victory over Latta in the season opener.
It was a tale of two halves for the War Eagles’ defense. McClam set the tone for the first half when he took the ball 45 yards for a touchdown on Latta’s first play from scrimmage. He went on to score two more times in the first half, once on a rush and on a 74-yard kickoff return as well.
“They did a good job blocking for him in the first half, (Donell) Stanley opened some lanes up for him and he got loose. We were planning for that this week; we knew he could run,” Wagener Salley head coach Ken Tucker said after the game. “At halftime, I told the guys we needed some more effort out there and to get aggressive.”
The War Eagles defense responded. After giving up 143 yards on the ground to McClam in the first half, they held him to 59 in the second half.
“We weren’t able to get the lanes we got in the first half,” Latta head coach Kelly Williamson said. “Hopefully we can learn from this and improve on some things going into the next game.”
Latta struggled all night with the passing game. Quarterback Kel Williamson connected on 2 of 8 passes on the night for 14 yards. His counterpart Malcolm Stroman completed five of 12 passes on the night for 170 yards. Nijae Jerry completed his two passes for 64 yards as well.
Wagener-Salley also turned up its run game in the second half of the game. Eric Corley broke loose for two big runs in the half, including a 27-yard touchdown to pull the team within three points.
On the next offensive possession, Wagener-Salley took the lead for good when Nijae Jerry connected with Malcolm Stroman on a screen pass that Stroman took in for a 40 yard touchdown. It was the third way Stroman helped put points on the board.
He also threw for a 65-yard touchdown to Bobby Chavis and a rushed for a 13-yard touchdown in the first half. Tucker said getting Stroman the ball as much as possible was part of the plan.
“We really like to get the ball in Malcolm’s hands and let him get out in the open field,” Tucker said. “He’s a good athlete so we like to use him.”
Despite the win, Tucker wants to see some improvements from his team.
“We’ve got to come out and be prepared mentally,” Tucker said. “The kids have to come out and practice hard and be ready for the next game.”
Wagener-Salley will travel to Bethune-Bowman for a game next Friday.
Eric Russell covers sports for the Aiken Standard. He graduated from USC Aiken with a degree in communications.
W-S 7 12 14 0 — 33
Latta 7 21 0 0 — 28
Latta-RJ McClam 45 run (Chase Ray Kick)
WS-Eric Corley 4 run (Stroman kick)
Latta-McClam 32 run (Ray Kick)
WS-Stroman 65 pass to Bobby Chavis (2-point conversion pass failed)