There’s no doubt the defensive line is the strongest unit of the Conway football team this season.
And there’s no question Tonka Hemingway is the best player on that line.
The four-year starter has amassed 134 tackles, 25 tackles for loss and 11 sacks during his Conway career. Some observers say he’s the best defensive lineman to come out of Horry County in at least a decade, if not longer.
But Hemingway’s contributions go far beyond sports.
“Tonka does a lot of things the right way — from academics to athletics,” said his coach Carlton Terry. “He’s just a role model. A kid that’s a National Honor Society inductee this spring, that’s big. That’s big on our team because people look at football players as a bunch of jocks who get by because they play sports. But he does it the right way.”
As of press deadlines, Hemingway had not announced where he plans to play college ball, but he had narrowed his choices to South Carolina, Duke and North Carolina.
But before he plays on Saturdays, he has a season left in Conway, and he’s optimistic about what the veteran-laden defensive line can accomplish.
Along with Hemingway, the line also features seniors Tim Shelton, Tate Finklea and Andy Jordan.
“We’ve been together since we were in ninth grade and knew each other since middle school,” he said. “We’ve always been close.”
The Tigers certainly hope to fare better than they did a year ago when they went 3-7.
Some of those games could have gone the other way, and the Tigers have focused on becoming more disciplined: fewer penalties, more fourth-quarter points and better results.
“Our slogan is 100% — zero excuses,” Hemingway said. “Our goal is always to win.”