Farnums Taking Lead as Young Shores Navigates Way Among D2 Elite

By Tom Kendra
Special for MHSAA.com

October 5, 2022

Dahmir Farnum takes his role as a captain on the Muskegon Mona Shores football team VERY seriously.

“As a captain, my teammates are following my energy, so every time I touch the ball I’m trying to score a touchdown,” said Dahmir, who is averaging 120 rushing yards per game, despite playing less than a half in three this fall.

He nearly achieved his goal Sept. 23 against visiting Grand Rapids Union, scoring four touchdowns on his first five carries (all in the first quarter) in a 64-14 victory.

While Dahmir was running wild in that game, his brother – fellow senior Ke’Waun Farnum – was equally dominant in that same first quarter on defense with two interceptions, the second one going for a pick-six.

“It’s a blessing to have two kids who are not only great athletes, but unselfish teammates and hard-workers,” said 12th-year Mona Shores coach Matt Koziak. “Their roles have been elevated on both sides of the ball this year. They almost never come off the field.”

The Farnums have brought stability and leadership to the young Sailors, who are breaking in new sophomore quarterback Jonathan Pittman as well as many new faces on the offensive and defensive lines.

Mona Shores, 5-1 and ranked No. 3 in Division 2, has been dominant in every game this fall – except for the final 16 minutes against undefeated Rockford, when the host Rams rallied from a 27-7 deficit for 24 straight points in a 31-27 win.

“We have to keep that high level of play for four quarters and not take our foot off of the pedal,” explained Ke’Waun.

The Sailors appear to have learned their lesson, impressively defeating quality opponents the past two weeks. Against Union, the offense took center stage, scoring 43 points in the first quarter. Last week at Zeeland West, Shores allowed a long touchdown drive on the opening possession, then completely shut down the Dux’ wing-T the rest of the night in a 34-6 win.

The Farnum brothers showed their versatility and strength in that win at Zeeland West, which was undefeated and ranked No. 4 in Division 3 at the time. Dahmir, who plays outside linebacker, was moved inside due to an injury, and Ke’Waun was shifted from cornerback to his brother’s outside backer spot.

“They both played lights-out,” explained Koziak, who works primarily with the offense along with offensive coordinator Aaron James, while Dave Check is the defensive coordinator. “People talk about their speed all the time, but they are both big-time weight room kids who are very strong. They proved against Zeeland West that they are both willing to do anything that we ask them to help our team win.”

Dahmir (5-foot-9, 200 pounds), who Koziak calls the best running back he has coached in 12 years at Shores, has carried 66 times for 715 yards, an average of 10.8 yards per carry, with 12 touchdowns. He also has 21 tackles and one sack.

Ke’Waun (5-9, 175), who Koziak ranks as one of the best cover cornerbacks he’s had at Shores, has 10 receptions for 177 yards and three TDs from his slot receiver position. He also has two rushing touchdowns and returns punts and kickoffs. On defense, he has 11 tackles and two interceptions.

“They are two totally different players,” explained Koziak. “It is unbelievable, as a coach, to have two brothers like these two who give you so much. They do whatever we ask them to do.”

The Farnums are both three-year starters who played key roles as sophomores during the Sailors’ undefeated 2020 season, which culminated with a 25-19 win over Warren De La Salle Collegiate for their second-consecutive Division 2 championship. That season was particularly special, as Dahmir and Ke’Waun played on the same team with their older brother, Elijah.

Last season was disappointing, at least by Mona Shores’ current lofty standards, as the defense allowed too many big plays and 40-plus points in losses to Detroit Martin Luther King, Muskegon and Caledonia. The Sailors’ season ended with that defeat against Caledonia in a Division 2 District Final.

“I was out for that (Caledonia) game with COVID, and it was a helpless feeling watching them take it to us,” said Ke’Waun. “We started getting ready for this year as soon as that game was over.”

Shores hosts Zeeland East this week, then closes the regular season on the road with crosstown rivalry games against resurgent Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (5-1) and Muskegon (4-2).

Dahmir is the more vocal of the two brothers, while Ke’Waun keeps to himself and leads more by example.

Both are considered Division II college football prospects – Dahmir as a running back and Ke’Waun as a cornerback. They know it is a possibility that they could end up at the same college, but chances are their many years of playing on the same team – going all the way back to elementary youth football – will likely be coming to an end next month.

“I love everything about high school football, including being able to play with my brother,” said Dahmir, who goes to Buffalo Wild Wings with his brother and their father, Willie Farnum, after every game. “We are very close and we are very competitive. We are going to enjoy every minute that we get playing together.”

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.

PHOTO Mona Shores senior Ke'Waun Farnum, left, celebrates his first-quarter interception against Grand Rapids Union on Sept. 23, along with his brother, Dahmir Farnum. (Photo by Eric Sturr, courtesy of the Local Sports Journal.)

Constantine Football All-Stater, Wrestling Champ Aiming for Grand Finale

By Scott Hassinger
Special for MHSAA.com

April 30, 2024

CONSTANTINE – Bennett VandenBerg has earned many accolades over the last four years as a three-sport athlete at Constantine.

Southwest CorridorBut the awards aren't what the 6-foot-3, 240-pound standout will remember most when reflecting on his memories as an all-state football player, state champion wrestler and record-breaking throwing specialist on the Falcons' track & field squad.

"I'll remember how I represented our school and pushed myself to be the best I could be in each sport that I played," said VandenBerg, who has earned 12 varsity letters.

VandenBerg has evolved into one of the most accomplished athletes in the state this school year as a senior, especially standing out among those from smaller communities.

This past fall he was named first-team Division 5-6 all-state at defensive end in football before winning the Division 3 Individual Finals wrestling title at 285 pounds in early March at Ford Field.

VandenBerg's final goal is to win the discus title at the Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals on Saturday, June 1, in Kent City to end his Constantine career all-state in all three sports.

He broke the school record in the discus his junior year with a throw of 158 feet, 1 inch; the previous mark of 156-6 had been held by Doug Polasek since 1986. VandenBerg has eclipsed his school record twice this spring, most recently with a personal-best toss of 170-9 in a Southwestern Athletic Conference double dual meet with Schoolcraft and Kalamazoo Christian. He ranks No. 4 statewide in the event regardless of enrollment division. Lawton junior Mason Mayne at 175-4 is the only Division 3 competitor with a better throw than VandenBerg.

"It's really cool to have your name up on the school record board, but I'd like to make that mark more untouchable before I'm done," VandenBerg said. "My goal is to be a state discus champion. I've put in the necessary work for it. It would be nice to end my career that way."

Kyle Rimer, Constantine's veteran boys track & field coach, is most impressed with VandenBerg's leadership and presence in working with the Falcons' younger athletes.

VandenBerg, top position, battles Wyatt Spalo in their Division championship wrestling match at 285 pounds in March at Ford Field. "Bennett loves to compete. Ever since he was a freshman, we've also had him on our 400-meter relay team. That's something he really enjoys doing. He's not just a thrower, but a good overall athlete with lots of drive,” Rimer said. “There's a lot of individuality in track & field, but I think he does a great job of leading the younger kids. He has the drive, accountability and technique to achieve his goal of being a state champion in his throwing events.”

VandenBerg is already a two-time Finals placer in the discus, earning sixth as a junior and seventh his sophomore year. He admits being a little disappointed with his distance at the 2023 state meet.

"In that particular event (discus) you need lots of focus and determination because there are a ton of tiny things you can mess up on that affect your throw. To become better you need to be consistent, show up every day and be willing to put in the work," VandenBerg said. "Right now I'm working on my speed in the circle and quickness in my follow-through."

VandenBerg also has been pleased with his improvement this spring in the shot put. He's increased his distance by over five feet and hopes to break the school record in that event as well. John Kampars (1967) holds Constantine's shot put record at 54-8¼, and VandenBerg's personal best is 48-10 in a double-dual meet this season against Parchment and Centreville.

"Shot put is a difficult event. You need power, but your form has to be top-notch – otherwise it's tough to move that 12-pound ball," VandenBerg said. "I would love to qualify for state in both the discus and shot put and be all-state in each. That would be amazing if I could be a state champion in either of those events."

VandenBerg has put in extra work in the offseason with special instruction from Bill Griffey of Next Throw in Plainwell, along with working with Constantine assistant track & field and head football coach Shawn Griffith.

"Bennett puts a lot of time into working on his throwing. He spends a lot of time in the weight room, and he's a bigger kid who is not afraid to be coached and listens to what other people tell him," Griffith said. "We're excited to see what he can do now that we've had warmer weather recently."

VandenBerg (34) carries the football during a 2023 regular-season home game against Schoolcraft.VandenBerg's motivation this spring follows a tremendous wrestling season that saw him finish 54-0 and capture the 285 championship with a 3-0 win in the title match over Reed City junior Wyatt Spalo.

"I gained 20 pounds of muscle and did everything you need to do to become a better athlete to wrestle the heavyweight division. Winning the title was overwhelming. It was everything I ever wanted, and the first 20 minutes after winning it was relief, especially after losing in the Finals as a junior. I just went into that last match and wrestled smart and confident," VandenBerg said. "My speed and strength gave me an advantage over the bigger heavyweights I faced this year."

Vandenberg, 188-22 with 104 career pins, became the 10th Finals champion in Constantine wrestling history and the first to achieve the feat since Kevin Watkins won a 152-pound crown in 2000.

VandenBerg competed at 189 as a freshman and sophomore. He was a Regional qualifier as a freshman and finished sixth in Division 3 as a sophomore before ending his junior campaign as the Finals runner-up at 215. 

"Bennett is a competitor who hates to lose, and if he does he learns from it. He had a lot of good practice partners on the team his first three years, and he wasn't going to be denied after losing in the Finals as a junior," said Constantine wrestling coach Dale Davidhizar Jr.

VandenBerg played on Constantine's varsity football team for four years. He got a lot of extra playing time as a freshman when Constantine reached the Division 6 Semifinals during in the COVID-shortened season. He led the Falcons in rushing as a sophomore before switching to tight end as a junior. Out of necessity, VandenBerg returned to lead Constantine in rushing and scoring again as a senior.

"Bennett learned a great deal from the older guys on the team his first three varsity seasons. He learned leadership qualities and is a very unselfish kid who is willing to do what's best for his team," Griffith said.

VandenBerg is most proud of Constantine winning a District crown last fall, especially after his senior class went 0-5-1 as eighth graders. VandenBerg posted 164 solo tackles at defensive end during his final high school season and was Constantine's main offensive weapon with 1,354 yards and 16 touchdowns rushing on 186 carries.

"Winning Districts as seniors in football was a special moment. As eighth graders, we weren't exactly the most athletic team, but we put in the work as we got older to become successful," VandenBerg said.

VandenBerg has been invited to play for the West team at the annual Michigan High School Football Coaches Association's East-West All-Star Game this summer.

College coaches have shown interest in VandenBerg in all three sports, especially football and wrestling. VandenBerg, who carries a cumulative GPA of 3.989 and scored 1110 on his SAT, is weighing his options in athletics but knows he wants to study either ecology or forestry in college.

"I love being outdoors and doing what I love to do," VandenBerg said.

Scott HassingerScott Hassinger is a contributing sportswriter for Leader Publications and previously served as the sports editor for the Three Rivers Commercial-News from 1994-2022. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Constantine’s Bennett VandenBerg competes in the discus during a home meet his junior season. (Middle) VandenBerg, top position, battles Wyatt Spalo in their Division championship wrestling match at 285 pounds in March at Ford Field. (Below) VandenBerg (34) carries the football during a 2023 regular-season home game against Schoolcraft. (Photos by Brandon Watson/Sturgis Journal.)