WAGENER — As the 2013 high school football season approached, Wagener-Salley head coach Ken Tucker had some concerns about senior Eric Corley, who would be taking over the No. 1 running back spot formerly filled by Trey Davis.

Corley has answered any and all of Tucker’s preseason questions, leading the area with 1,356 yards and 19 touchdowns. He carried the ball 19 times for 124 yards and two touchdowns in Thursday’s night win over Ridge Spring-Monetta in the regular-season finale. He also added a momentum-swinging 85-yard kickoff return for a score that sparked his War Eagle teammates, earning him Aiken Standard Player of the Week honors.

“He’s met and probably exceeded everything I thought,” said Tucker, whose initial worries centered around Corley’s size and the amount of hits he could take as the War Eagles’ primary ball carrier.

Corley, on the other hand, didn’t share those concerns.

“I had experience from last year,” said Corley, who ran for 843 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2012. “I was waiting for this moment, to be a senior and just to step up.”

Corley scored on a pair of short runs Thursday, one in the first quarter and one in the third. Each gave Wagener-Salley a lead in the back-and-forth battle.

But it was his game-tying touchdown in the third quarter that proved to be the turning point. Ridge Spring-Monetta’s Travious Wigfall had just given the Trojans a 21-14 lead when Corley struck on the ensuing kickoff, housing it from 85 yards out to knot the score once again.

“It was huge for us,” said Tucker, who added that his team seemed to come out flat to open the game. He said the return changed the momentum was a catalyst for a strong closing effort, something he hadn’t seen in recent weeks.

Corley’s abilities as a return man add an extra dimension to the area’s most-traveled running back. He and quarterback Malcolm Stroman combine to form a lethal kick return duo, which gives the War Eagles good field position either by their returns or any of the ways opponents try to keep the ball away from them, including short kicks, squib kicks and kicks out of bounds.

“With the two guys we’ve got back there, I tell the front all the time, ‘Just get back there and get in somebody’s way,’ ” Tucker said.

Corley’s greatest asset as a returner is also his main advantage as a running back: speed.

“When he sees a hole and accelerates and gets through there, he’s one of the quickest around here,” said Tucker. “When he puts his foot in the ground and just takes off, he can make one person miss and he’s got the speed to take it the rest of the way.”

The War Eagles are back in the playoffs, which begin Friday night, for the second consecutive season. That’s thanks in large part to Corley.

“It’s good to play with different people that want the same goal as you,” said Corley. “We always stick together on the weekends and talk about football. Years ago, we always talked as a group about making something happen this year. This is where we’re at.”

Where the War Eagles are is somewhere they haven’t been in a long time, and Tucker hopes that Corley and his fellow seniors have inspired a culture change within the program.

“They’ve got people in the community more interested in what we’re doing around here,” Tucker said. “We’re hoping it’s one of those things where success breeds success, and that it’s something we’re able to build on.”


Aiken Standard Player of the Week winners

• Week Zero: Trib Reece, QB, North Augusta

• Week One: Jaquan Williams, RB, Fox Creek

• Week Two: Travious Wigfall, RB/LB, Ridge Spring-Monetta

• Week Three: RJ Stallings, RB/DB, Silver Bluff

• Week Four: Dramel Coleman, Wing/S, Aiken

• Week Five: Antonio Coleman, RB, Williston-Elko

• Week Six: Jauveer Hammond, QB, Strom Thurmond

• Week Seven: Daniel Carr, QB, Midland Valley

• Week Eight: Malcolm Stroman, QB/KR/DB, Wagener-Salley

• Week Nine: Kameron Brown, WR/DB, Midland Valley

• Week 10: Eric Corley, Wagener-Salley, RB/KR, Wagener-Salley