By Tom Kendra
Special for Second Half
Fremont is synonymous with babies, as the founding home of Gerber Products and host of the National Baby Food Festival each July.
Some of those babies grow up to be giants – as evidenced by this year’s Fremont Packers boys basketball team.
Senior Logan Karnemaat (6-foot-10) and junior Tristan Campbell (6-8) are the twin towers whose presence sets the tone on both ends of the court for the Packers, who are off to a 2-0 start and have high hopes for the rest of the season.
“I guess you could say we ate all of our baby food, and someone must have put some Miracle-Gro in there, too,” Karnemaat said with a laugh.
Karnemaat knows all about fertilizer as a third-generation farmer. He spends much of his time when he’s not in school or playing basketball working on his family’s 3,000-acre farm operation, which includes crops and livestock.
His life goal has always been to get a business degree and return to run the family farm, with playing basketball almost an afterthought.
When pressed on the subject, he said that both Grace Christian and Calvin College in Grand Rapids have shown interest in him, then quickly added: “There are two more I can’t think of off the top of my head.”
Karnemaat is clearly more focused on making the most out of his senior basketball season, which shows signs of great promise after an impressive 45-35 win Tuesday night at Ludington, which made it all the way to the MHSAA Class B Final in 2017.
“I’d say that was our biggest road win in 10-12 years,” said Fremont coach Peter Zerfas, who is now in his 19th year. “It was how we did it. Ludington is a very good team, but we came out with confidence and we were the more aggressive team.”
The scorebook does not tell the true story of the game, as Campbell scored only seven points and Karnemaat just five. The real story was the rebounding and shot-blocking of the twin towers – Karnemaat finished with 10 rebounds and Campbell had five blocked shots, with both of them altering and contesting countless others.
As a result of their presence, Ludington suffered through one of its worst offensive nights in recent memory, scoring just 18 total points over the first three quarters. Senior standout Josh Laman, who nailed the memorable 3-pointer in the Class B Semifinals two seasons ago to send the Orioles to the championship game, had no field goals in the first half and just 10 total points.
Fremont senior forwards Calvin Miller (11 points) and Julian Echavarria, who also have good size at 6-5 and 6-3, respectively, also contributed on both ends of the court.
Zerfas said the key to the big win was the play of his young guards, particularly junior starters Carter Moon (13 points) and Jaxx Miller, who held up under Ludington’s relentless full-court pressure during the second half.
“We have four young guards, and how well they develop will be the key for us this season,” said Zerfas, whose youngest son, sophomore Joshua Zerfas, is one of those young backcourt players. “We have the size and we have some depth, so if those guards keep coming like they are, we have a chance to be really good.”
Zerfas has the Packers competing at a championship level after back-to-back down years in 2015-16 (6-16) and 2016-17 (13-8). Basketball is a big deal in this small town, which has had some great runs in cross country but for the most part is known for baby food, farming and hoops.
Fremont has won a pack of conference and District championships, but Regionals has generally been the end of the road. In fact, the last time Fremont won a Regional championship was 1956, before losing to Stephenson that winter in the Class B Quarterfinals.
Shortly after Zerfas took over as coach in 2000, Fremont had a string of five consecutive District titles, with longtime nemesis Muskegon Heights ending the Packers’ run at the regional level in four of those five years.
Fremont fought its way back to Regionals last winter, before being humbled by Grand Rapids South Christian and finishing with a 17-7 record.
The Packers feel like they have even more pieces in place this winter and are eager to start work towards their first goal, a Central States Activities Association Gold championship, when they open league play Friday night at Reed City.
Karnemaat, who led Fremont with 14 points, eight rebounds and five blocked shots per game last season, can’t wait for back-to-back home games next week against Montague and Sparta.
While he spends much of his time working in relative solitude on the family farm, there’s nothing he enjoys more than the contrast of playing basketball in front of a rowdy home crowd.
“Our students and our community come out and supports us, and it really helps,” Karnemaat said. “We have a good team, but then to have 2,000 fans behind you and get you going, I love it.”
Tom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Fremont 6-10 senior center Logan Karnemaat holds the ball up high, well out of the reach of two Shelby defenders, during a 75-50 season-opening win Nov. 27. (Middle) Fremont sophomore Braiden McDonald, one of the contributors off the Packers' deep bench, drives to the basket. (Photos by Russell Tindall.)
The MHSAA and Holly school communities are grieving this week after the sudden loss of Tony Coggins, a shining light in his educational community and an enthusiastic supporter of school sports as a public address announcer for several of our largest championship events.
But while that cheerful tone has been quieted, it surely will not be forgotten by the many fortunate to enjoy an event in the presence of that voice and the joyfulness he brought into every arena, press box and classroom.
Coggins, 51, died Saturday. He is survived by his wife Kristy and children Emma and Bradlee, among several family and friends from his local and greater sports communities.
His career as a PA announcer began during his freshman year of high school in 1985, when his father Dale Coggins – Flushing’s athletic director at the time – couldn’t find anyone else to announce middle school football games. That was 39 years ago, and this fall Tony Coggins was in his 24th announcing at Holly, where he taught and served as an administrator in addition to his role as “Voice of the Holly Bronchos” for football, basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball, competitive cheer and swimming & diving over the years.
Coggins has been a mainstay among MHSAA Finals PA announcers over the last decade in football, basketball, softball and most recently volleyball. He lent his voice to college sports at University of Michigan as well. “Tony was a huge part of our Finals events. It’s hard to imagine it being the same without him,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said.
As part of the run-up to the MHSAA public address announcers clinic in 2018, Coggins said this about what drew him to the microphone:
“I have zero athletic ability whatsoever, which is interesting because my father was an all-state running back. But I enjoy being involved, and I've always been the one for history and statistics and knowing what's going on,” Coggins said. “This is a way for me to be involved. It's a way for me to use a talent I've been given; public speaking has always come pretty naturally for me.
“So I worked at my craft to get better. I got better from watching the people around me, from studying the people I like, and the people – if I saw someone I didn’t care for – I'd make a note and say to myself, ‘Don't do that.’ I take feedback from people very personally, and I mean that in a good way. If somebody takes the time to come up and say, ‘You did this well; I think you should change this,’ that means they care about the program also. We all have the same goal in mind, and that's to make the experience good for the high school student and the parents, the fans, that come there.”
Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 28, at St. John Vianney, 2415 Bagley Street in Flint. There will be visitation from 2-8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27, at the Swartz Funeral Home, 1225 West Hill Road, and at the church from 10 a.m. Saturday until the time of the Mass.
The Holly volleyball team played for something bigger tonight
Beloved PA announcer Anthony Coggins died on Friday night from a heart attack
— Brandon Green🍀 (@BGreenReports) October 24, 2023