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.)
Separated by 527 travel miles – whether over Mackinac Bridge or around Lake Michigan, the Novara family celebrated nearly parallel football successes this fall.
At Portland, John Novara completed his 25th season as head coach leading the Raiders to a 12-1 record – their best since finishing Division 5 runner-up in 2018, and a second-straight Capital Area Activities Conference White championship on the way to reaching the Division 4 Semifinals.
At Kingsford, fifth-year coach Mark Novara led the Flivvers to a 10-2 record – their best since posting the same in 2004. Kingsford shared the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper title and won a Division 5 District title, its first District championship since 2009.
John Novara graduated from Iron Mountain in 1989, and younger brother Mark graduated from Kingsford in 1993.
Similarly parallel, both teams were quarterbacked by Novaras. Dominic Novara directed the Raiders’ attack, and cousin Nic Novara led the Flivvers. Both are juniors. (Mark Novara was a Division III All-American at quarterback at Lakeland College in Wisconsin.)
One more connection: Portland athletic director Kevin Veale quarterbacked the Iron Mountain teams with John Novara as tight end long before they worked together downstate. Veale’s nephew Garrett Veale was a standout two-way lineman for Mark Novara and Kingsford this fall.
Small gesture, memorable connection
Dante DeGrazia’s senior season was sadly short-lived this fall, as he suffered a season-ending injury during the first half of South Lyon East’s opening game against White Lake Lakeland at Michigan Stadium.
But an official provided a memory the DeGrazias will not forget.
Chris Curtis had begun his 16th season as an official earlier that day at U-M, and stuck around to watch the Lakes Valley Conference matchup. A month later, he was officiating the East/Warren Mott game, and made sure to check in with DeGrazia – a small gesture, but a meaningful one as well and another reminder of the interconnectedness of communities within educational athletics.
“When he heard my son wasn't able to play anymore, needed surgery and that he was a senior, he offered him kindness and a hug on the field,” Dante’s mother Dana DeGrazia wrote to East athletic director Greg Michaels. “As a parent whose son is going through a rough time dealing with losing his senior season, hearing this story from Dante means a lot to me and the support that was given to him and I wanted to reach out and tell him thank you.”
PHOTOS (Top) Kingsford football coach Mark Novara, far left, quarterback Nic Novara and Portland coach (and uncle) John Novara celebrate the Flivvers' District title. (Middle) South Lyon East's Dante DeGrazia (33) and official Chris Curtis meet for a quick hug during East's Week 5 game. (Photos courtesy of the Portland football program and DeGrazia family, respectively.)