Strand sends record-tying four stars to Shrine Bowl

Horry County has had an on-again, mostly off-again relationship with eight-plus decades of Shrine Bowls of the Carolinas.

The top high school football game for seniors in North and South Carolina hasn’t exactly been jammed with local talent. After all, just one player was selected in the first 13 years of the game, no one outside of Conway made the South Carolina roster until 1961, and frequently throughout the mid-1990s, the county was passed over completely each year.

This fall will be different.

A record-tying four players from the county have been chosen to participate in December’s game. They include Myrtle Beach quarterback Luke Doty and defensive tackle Quamil Spells, Carolina Forest offensive tackle Darin Goss and Conway defensive end Tonka Hemingway.

On top of that, South Carolina head coach Dean Boyd — who previously coached at Marlboro County before taking over at York this year — said Horry County was extremely close to having more.

“It’s getting better. Not only that, but there are a lot of guys that we’ve missed,” Boyd said, referencing past Shrine Bowl head coaches. “Horry County hasn’t really been well represented on the coaching staff. The people from the Upstate, they don’t know anything about Horry County.

“But I think the Horry County brand of football is better. It’s hard to put your finger on it. I played those guys. North Myrtle Beach is getting better. Myrtle Beach has always been good. And Conway is usually pretty good.”

There is one local coach working with Boyd this year, as longtime assistant Bob Vosbrinck, currently at Carolina Forest, is part of the staff. However, it would be hard to say this year’s selections were based solely upon that.

Goss has been a three-year starter for a Carolina Forest offense that consistently puts up big numbers both rushing and passing. Doty and Spells each played vital roles in last year’s Class 4A state championship for the Seahawks. And Tonka Hemingway, who like Doty is committed to South Carolina, has hours of highlights over the course of three-plus seasons along the Tigers’ defensive line.

The four will now line up alongside each other Dec. 21 in Spartanburg at Wofford’s Gibbs Stadium for the 83rd annual Shrine Bowl. It is just the fourth time in the game’s history that four Horry County athletes have been selected.

It happened most recently in 2012. In five of the six following years, there was no more than one Horry County player selected, and twice in that span the area was shut out completely.

Last year, Myrtle Beach offensive lineman Evan Jumper was the lone selection.

As Boyd said, there was no way that would happen this fall. There was simply too much individual talent to ignore.

Doty’s accolades have been well documented, as he was selected for the Elite 11 quarterback camp over the summer. Spells, a 6-foot-2, 290 pounder, had 57 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, two fumble recoveries and an interception last year before opening this season with a six-tackle, 4.5-tackle-for-loss performance against Hanahan.

“[Doty is] just such a hard worker. He’s worked as hard as any kid we’ve had in our program,” Myrtle Beach coach Mickey Wilson said. “To see him be rewarded for this is awesome. Quamil is an awesome young man and he’s fallen under the radar a little bit across the state and even in our area. He’s a heck of a football player.”

Over at Carolina Forest, Goss has been one of the highest-rated offensive linemen in the area since taking over at right tackle as a sophomore. In that time, the Panthers’ offense has averaged 30 points per game.

“He’s been a staple for us,” Carolina Forest coach Marc Morris said. “To be at the Shrine Bowl level, you’re not just a good football player. You’re a good kid.”

Conway’s Hemingway is every bit a legacy as far as the Shrine Bowl is concerned. He joins older brother Junior (2006) and four first cousins — Andrea Gause (1999), George Gause (2000), Kerebi Gause (2003) and Racheed Gause (2005) — in making the Shrine Bowl roster.

“Tonka is a joy to coach,” Conway’s Carlton Terry said. “He does the little things to prepare him for games and that’s why he’s such a special athlete. He’s extremely explosive off of the ball and knows how to finish when he reaches the ball carrier.”

Those three coaches’ compliments were much of what the Shrine Bowl coaching staff saw, albeit mostly from 2018 film. This is one of the earliest roster releases for the all-star game, as it has been typically announced in October.

The game’s power brokers pushed for an advanced timeline for 2019.

Ultimately, another Horry County name or two could find a place in Spartanburg before it’s all said and done. Boyd said Carolina Forest quarterback Mason Garcia was evaluated consistently and will be considered if an offensive hole opens up in the coming weeks. Boyd added that North Myrtle Beach’s Ramsey Lewis is a being considered as an alternate at running back.

Lastly, he said that Myrtle Beach could have had a third selection (although he did not name that player), had it not been for the policy that limits teams to two players.

That’s hefty praise for a county that has frequently been on the outside looking in at the Shrine Bowl.

“They’ve gotten better. There’s no doubt about it,” he said. “And I think it’s here to stay.”

Photo by Janet Morgan/myhorrynews

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