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Bill Van Nimwegen - page 62

Bill Van Nimwegen has 737 articles published.

Lady Prospectors Take First-ever Region Crown

AJHS Makes Program History with Black Canyon Title, Earns Automatic Playoff Berth

By Daniel Dullum

Volleyball has been a varsity sport at Apache Junction since the earliest days of Title IX in the 1970s. In the four decades since, the Lady Prospectors have never won a region championship – until last Thursday.

In a match completed in 48 minutes at the AJHS gym, the Lady Prospectors swept Scottsdale Coronado 25-15, 25-14, 25-8, clinching the 4A Black Canyon Region title in the process.

“That feels awesome,” AJ Coach Jake Heermans said. “It’s amazing. It’s something we’ve worked for all season. We’ve talked about it a lot, and it’s great to see it come to fruition.”

The road to a region championship didn’t come easy for Apache Junction.

“We’ve had our share of adversity,” Heermans said. “It’s fun for us to talk about playoffs. It’s something we’ve wanted for a long, long, long time for this program.”

Defensive specialist Jessica Sigler, the lone 12th grader on the AJ roster, celebrated Senior Night by returning to her old position of libero.

“I’m very glad I finally got to play libero again,” Sigler said. “I enjoyed it so much. It was a great way to go out for my last home game. We practiced it on Wednesday and I wanted to play there all season. I remembered what it was like last season, and I really, really enjoyed it.”

One of Sigler’s goals this season was to help

“It meant a lot to me,” Sigler said. “I’m so glad we won our region. And we’re going to get our banner, just like our soccer banner. It’s going to be awesome.

“I’ve played volleyball since sixth grade, varsity for three years, and now going to state. It’s the best way to go out.”

The Lady Prospectors (22-18 overall, 8-1 region, ) are finishing the regular season on a roll, winning seven straight matches since losing to Northland Prep Academy on Sept. 23 in the Payson Invitational. AJ’s regular season concludes Tuesday at San Tan Valley Combs.

“Things are going very well for us right now,” Heermans said. “We have good chemistry on the court right now, and it’s taken a while to figure out where to put people and how it should go. But it’s starting to click a lot for us.”

Like his team, Heermans is also excited about the first volleyball banner ever to be displayed in the AJHS gym.

“I’ll pay for the expedited shipping,” Heermans said. “I hope it gets here soon!”

Kollenborn: A Deadly Vision

By Tom Kollenborn

Ironically, gold and treasure have attracted men and women to the Superstition Mountain region for more than a century. Their quest for lost treasure or gold has often turned tragic. Searching for gold or lost treasure in the summer months with little or no experience in the region can result in deadly consequences. The vision of riches has led many to their final resting place among the rocks and cacti of this unforgiving land known as the Superstition Wilderness Area during the hot summer months. This column is a reminder of how dangerous and deadly these mountains can be in the summer months. An early morning hike into the desert or mountains can be tragic if a person is injured or underestimates the desert heat.

In July of 2010, three men from Utah embarked upon a treasure-hunting quest that ended their lives tragically. Curtis Glenn Merworth, Malcolm Jerome Meeks and Adrean Charles headed for an unknown destination deep in the Superstition Wilderness Area. At this particular time of year, the ground surface temperatures could heat up to 180°F. The darker the ground, the hotter the temperatures could be. The air temperature was above 110°F, and water was scarce within the vastness of this mountain wilderness in July. A blind vision of golden riches drew these men into this infernal hell like a magnet. The men were aware of the dangers apparently, because they carried umbrellas to protect themselves from the burning rays of the sun. However, they failed to carry enough water to survive the stifling heat. The victim’s car was parked at First Water Trailhead around Tuesday, July 6, 2010.

The last person to visit with these three men prior to their fatal journey was Louis Ruiz at the Blue Bird Mine Curio Shop and Snack Bar on the Apache Trail. Curtis Merworth purchased a map and bid Louis farewell.

Soon after the men arrived, they were reported missing. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office set up a search and rescue command post at First Water Trail Head on Sunday, July 11, 2010. This was three days after they had gone into the mountains from First Water Trail Head. The sheriff’s office had a helicopter transporting search crews to different points within the wilderness to conduct searches. The helicopter crew searched the area by air looking for any visible clues. Approximately a hundred people were searching the area on foot, horseback and by air. All of this searching did not produce a single clue as to what had happened to these men or where they had gone. The MCSO Search & Rescue Command Post was taken down on Sunday July 18, 2010. Members of the MCSO, PCSO, Superstition Search & Rescue and other volunteers continued searching for the three missing men through December, 2010. As of January 1, 2011, not one clue had been found associated with these three missing men. It was as if they had vanished from the face of the Earth.

Ironically, searching for hikers is one thing, but searching for treasure hunters is something different. Hikers and horsemen generally remain on wilderness system trails. However, treasure hunters (Dutch hunters) wander in all directions over the mountain’s vastness looking for clues to lost gold caches. A clue might be a pictoglyph, a certain shaped rock, a cactus or maybe an old claim marker. These treasure hunters are usually far removed from system trails and often in extremely rugged country. I am sure the MCSO and other search groups did everything possible to locate these missing men. These officers are dedicated men and women who are here to protect and serve us. Once the officials scaled back their operations, the volunteer groups began their search for the three missing men. I followed the activities of the Superstition Search & Rescue Teams during their searches. They are a very dedicated and highly trained group of young men and women who devote hours of volunteer time to help others. This team is a member of CERTS, a Community Emergency Response Team working with the Apache Junction Police Department and trained by the State of Arizona. We cannot fault anyone for not finding these men sooner, because in the end, they were far off any beaten path. They were in an area it was highly unlikely anyone would search.

Richard “Rick” Gwynn, author and prospector, was hiking in the Superstition Wilderness Area on Wednesday, January 5, 2011, trying to piece together clues about the lost gold of these mountains about two miles east of First Water Trailhead. He made a gruesome discovery on the NNE slope of Yellow Peak. He found two skeletons, fully dressed, lying on loose, steeply sloping black-basaltic rock talus about 150 feet wide and 1000 feet long. Nearby he found two umbrellas they had been using for shade. Near the bodies was a battery-powered lamp. Rick said it appeared the men had died of natural causes. They had no water. Summer temperature on the black basaltic rock probably reached an easy 180°F. No human or animal would have lasted very long lying or crawling across this black rock.

Again, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office helicopter and search teams searched for the third victim. You must bear in mind, this is extremely rough terrain. Again, they didn’t have any success. After the MCSO was done searching, the Superstition Search and Rescue Team returned to the field. They began a search on Thursday, January 13, 2011, searching northward toward Black Mesa near the southeastern part of the mesa. It was in this area, about three quarters of a mile north of the first site, that SSAR team found what appeared to be a debris field that included a bone. They had no idea if it was human, but thought it was fresh. The team returned to the area on Saturday, January 15, 2011, and found skeletal remains. Search Commander Cooper immediately notified MCSO. The MCSO called out their helicopter rescue team under the direction of Deputies David Bremeton and Jesse Robinson. They supervised the removal of the third victim’s remains from the wilderness area. This discovery and removal of the last body closed another sad chapter in the history of these mountains and the search for the missing Utah prospectors. The failure of these men to understand the dangers of the mountains in the summer months cost them their lives. Finally, the three Utah gold hunters had been found, ending one of the most difficult searches in Superstition Wilderness Area history. Their vision of lost gold had been a fatal attraction for them.

NOTE: Now that the summer is over, we can reflect on the dangers of entering this wilderness during the summer months. Three men died in this case, because they were so possessed with finding gold in the Superstition Mountains, it cost them their lives. They didn’t prepare for such extremes as you find in these mountains during the summer. Dreams of riches were certainly a fatal attraction for them.

AJUSD Budget Revision OK’d

Adjustment to budget stems from controversial AZ funding measure for teacher raises

By Dana Trumbull

On the Apache Junction Unified School District Governing Board agenda for Tuesday, October 17, was an item for “Approval of the 2017-2018 Budget Revision #1.” Revisions to school budgets are not unusual, as the school finance schedule often requires budgets to be submitted prior to the state finalizing education allocations for the coming year. This item, however, attracted attention, because it was to adjust the district budget for the 1.06% salary increase for teachers that was approved by the Arizona Legislature last spring.

During his State of the State address last January, Governor Doug Ducey proclaimed, “Let’s take these new dollars and put them where they will have the greatest impact on students. It’s time for a raise for Arizona teachers.” When the resolution was passed, however, the additional monies allocated were for 1.06% to those teachers who had worked in the state of Arizona during the 2016-17 school year and continued working in Arizona schools for the current (2017-18) fiscal year. Education advocates had been lobbying for a 4% raise; however, Ducey claimed, “There’s just not enough money to go around.”

With teacher salaries in AJUSD starting at $33,227, the raise could be as little as $352 annually, or approximately $35 per month over a ten-month work schedule.

Teachers who are new to the state or new to the profession do not meet the criteria for the raise. certified employees who work as counselors or in teacher support positions (educational technology, curriculum directors, administrators, etc.) also are not eligible for the increase. Classified employees (those in support positions that do not require teaching certificates, such as food service, transportation and office staff) receive nothing from this state budget allocation.

At AJUSD, the raise affects 172 teachers.

According to the AJUSD Governing Board agenda, “A preliminary calculation of this salary increase was included in the Adopted Expenditure Budget for 2018. However, since the budget was adopted in July, new information and guidance regarding teacher eligibility and salary information has been issued by the Office of the Auditor General.” When calculated at the beginning of the fiscal year, the total amount needed to fund the teacher increase was $108,566. AJUSD Director of Finance Cindy Reichert explained, “Since then, teacher resignations and new hires resulted in a fluctuation in total salaries, plus we received more information from the Auditor General’s office as to who receives the increase. As a result, we need to adjust the total to fund this increase to $92,529. This is a decrease of $16,037 to the 2018 Adopted Budget.”

During discussion, Board Member Mike Weaver expressed dissatisfaction with the state’s criteria for recipients of the allocation, “I just want to make a point that we’re giving a raise to employees, but we’ve excluded the majority of our employees from that raise. This is an insult to all of our employees across the state. I will vote for it; we need every dime we can get. But this is an insulting measure.”

Dishing up what many pundits consider to be an additional insult to educators across the state, valley news sources this week are reporting that, despite Ducey’s statement to teachers that, “There’s just not enough money to go around,” the governor has, in fact, given raises of up to 20 percent to his staffers and political appointees. Many of the recipients were already earning salaries in the six figures. Pay increases reached into the tens of thousands of dollars; raises approximately equivalent to a teacher’s annual salary.

Ducey’s spokesman says the raises to aides went to individuals who have, “Really proven themselves and done good work.”

Gold Canyon’s Business Fair

November 4 in Mountain Brook Village

The Gold Canyon Business Fair & Holiday Showcase will be held on Saturday, Nov. 4 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Superstition Center & Sunset Center, 5782 S. Mountain Brook Dr. in Gold Canyon.

This year, there will be two amazing events in one day—with local retail venders and holiday shopping!

Color Me Music will provide live entertainment, and coffee and treats will be available from Gecko Espresso at the on-site café.

Other vendors include the Cheese E. Wagon, Books Are Fun and Sunland Productions live entertainment ticket sales. Look for new & interesting businesses along with all of your favorites.

Meet Doctors Dusty and Tecla Fuller and learn about the “5 Essentials” and receive a free screening and educational information.

Before you start a home maintenance or home improvement project, plan a vacation, or select new services, come to the Business Fair. Many of the vendors will be offering additional event specials and raffles at their own tables!

Shopping locally benefits Gold Canyon, Apache Junction and surrounding communities. If your business wants to participate in this event, please call Pam Burks 480-214-5555.

Superstition Mtn. Museum Supplies Stimulus for Learning

Life Skills students practice communication skills; work toward independence

By Daisy Gonzales, Canyon Chronicle, CCJH

The Life Skills class at Cactus Canyon Junior High took a field trip to the Superstition Mountain Museum on Sept. 5. to participate in activities and sightseeing.

Teacher Norma Warren wanted students to develop skills such as communication and how to work together as a class. The interactive experience gave them ways to learn those skills by doing scavenger hunts and watching informative videos.

“During the scavenger hunt, our students had to match the photograph of an item to the actual item in the museum,” Ms. Warren said. “This relates to the reading standard because they had to analyze the photographs and infer what the items were and what they were used for in the turn of the century.”

The class theme for this school year is “independence” and students are learning to do more things without adult help. Kids in the class have different abilities and Mrs. Warren wants them to work together as one.

The museum staff gave the group a tour and helped students experience the history of the community. Sites they looked at included the Elvis Chapel and the Apacheland movie set that burned down in 2004. These historical buildings helped them incorporate social studies into the curriculum.

“If we want our students to write about things, why not give them the life experiences to write about?” said Warren.

She hopes to do more trips outside of the CCJH campus. Warren also wants her students to be more involved with the school, such as working with the CCJH student council on projects and other events.

“StuCo kids take turns coming into our seventh hour to socialize with our students,” Warren said. “That class hour is a good opportunity to do more than simply play games. We could do more community based projects, like create a school-wide campaign to teach kids about recycling.”

Flu Shots Available

Pinal County Public Health

Influenza (also known as flu) causes thousands of deaths each year. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone six months and older gets a yearly flu shot. Getting vaccinated each year against flu protects you and the people around you who may be more vulnerable to serious illness due to the flu, such as pregnant women, young children, people age 65 and older and people with asthma or other chronic medical conditions.

To prevent the spread of flu and protect your family, you can take the following steps:

  • Get vaccinated as early as possible
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often
  • Disinfect surfaces
  • Cover your cough or sneeze
  • Stay home from work or school when you are sick

Flu vaccine is available at all Pinal County Public Health Clinics starting October 11, 2017. Walk-ins are welcome, but appointments are available from October 11 through October 21. Flu shots are available at no cost for uninsured and underinsured residents based on eligibility. Adults and children should bring their immunization records and insurance information, if available, with them to their visit.

Please call 1-888-431-1311 for flu shot appointment availability at one of the following Pinal County Public Health Clinic locations, from October 11 through October 21:

The Apache Junction Clinic is located at 575 North Idaho Rd. and is open Tuesday-Friday from 8:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.

All recommended and required immunizations for children are available at Pinal County Public Health Clinics on a walk-in basis, free for children age 18 and under. For more information or to schedule an appointment for your flu shot, please call the Pinal County Citizen Contact Center at 1-888-431-1311, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., or visit

Join the All-American Veterans Parade

Elks 2349 hosts Patriotic celebration in Apache Junction on Nov. 11

On Saturday, November 11, at 9:30 a.m., Apache Junction will celebrate Veterans Day with a patriotic parade in celebration of the community’s many veterans.

Following the parade, the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport Festival of the Superstitions begins two days of family-friendly fun at Flatiron Park.

Elks Lodge B.P.O.E. #2349 is the host of the 2017 Apache Junction All-American Veterans Parade. Come out to downtown AJ to hear the city’s marching bands, see the JROTC color guards and veterans groups and show your support and appreciation for some of the city’s finest.

This year’s Parade Grand Marshals are WWII veteran Lee Jones, Army Air Corps; Korean War veteran Bob Phillips, United States Marine Corps; and Vietnam veteran Denny Walter, United States Army.

Apache Junction will celebrate Veterans Day on Saturday, Nov. 11 with a parade down Apache Trail at 9:30 a.m. The 3 Grand Marshals this year are (above, left to right): Lee Jones, a WWII vet; Bob Phillips, a veteran of the Korean War; and Denny Walter, Vietnam vet.

The senior honoree, Lee Jones, joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in March of 1942, a few months after Pearl Harbor was attacked. Mr. Jones, who turned 96 last August, told The News that his desire to fly prompted his enlistment in the Air Corps as a cadet. He trained in the famous Stearman biplane—used by the Army to teach basics and advanced aerobatics. However, owing to Lee’s experience in meteorology—he was a weatherman in his hometown of Laredo, Texas, before enlisting—the Army decided to move Lee to weather duty instead of flying. “They needed weather experts to help schedule sorties,” Lee said in an interview. “Before going overseas I was serving in San Antonio and Oklahoma.” Then it was on to Bovington, England. “When General Patton liberated the city of Marseilles in France, I was moved to reporting from there. We would fly at various elevations to take our readings and also launch weather balloons from the base.” Lee later rode with General Patton’s troops in a 4X4 mobile weather station. He left Europe and the Army after VE Day in 1945. Lee is a Past Exalted Ruler of the Payson chapter of the Elks and has been a member for 58 years.

Bob Phillips enlisted in the U.S. Marines in February, 1950. He served in Korea from July, 1952 until July, 1953 as a Radar Technician. At his post on the eastern part of the country, Mr. Phillips gave detection support to troops, sailors and pilots. “I believe it was May Day in ‘53 when my screen lit up with enemy aircraft,” Bob told The News. “A U.S. aircraft squadron was sent up right away from a carrier off the coast, and just like that, the enemy planes all turned around and went back.” Bob began wintering in Apache Junction from Boulder, Colorado, in 1985 and moved here permanently in 1990.

Denny Walter volunteered for the draft, joining the U.S. Army in September, 1968. He served in Vietnam from September, 1969, to September, 1970, as part of the 9th Infantry in a Mobile Riverine Force. Most of his tour was in the Mekong Delta where he went on 15- to 20-day operations from a ship on the river. During his service, he was awarded the Combat Infantry Medal, the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. Denny moved to the area in 1994. He is a Past Exalted Ruler and organizer of the Lost Dutchman Days in Apache Junction.

Please join the community to give tribute to these heroes and all veterans at the All-American Veterans Parade. See page A-6 for a parking and staging map.

The parade begins with a roaring aircraft flyover and a ladder truck from Superstition Fire & Medical district leading the way at 9:30 a.m.

As in years past, the parade starts at Phelps Drive and heads west on Apache Trail, turning south onto Gold Drive, then east onto Apache Trail, ending at Phelps Dr.

After the parade, everyone is welcome to meet the Grand Marshals at Elks Lodge B.P.O.E. #2349, 2455 N. Highway 88, at the intersection of Lost Dutchman and Highway 88. Beverages and food will be available.


From Crop Failure to Harvest Festival

East Mesa “Crazy Chile Farm” celebrates breaking ground on new field; continues efforts to feed the hungry

By Dana Trumbull

UPDATE! Laura Ward’s team of Clydesdale horses will not be able to pull the plow for the demonstration at the Harvest Festival on Saturday (Dante suffered from a sore hoof and had to be reshod), but Laura and her horses will still be there to participate in the parade and interact with attendees.

Meanwhile, two more horses will pick up the assist in the field. They are Shires (largest of all draft-horse breeds… yes, bigger than Clydesdales) from Haviland Shires in Queen Creek.

Looking forward to this one!  DBT

The Crazy Chile Farm, together with Transfiguration Episcopal Church and the Maricopa County Community Garden Association (which includes western Pinal County),  will be hosting a Desert Harvest Festival on Saturday, October 28 from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the large paved parking lot of the Transfiguration Episcopal Church, 514 S. Mountain Rd., Mesa, AZ. The festival will feature a Farmers’ Market and Pumpkin Patch, Chile Roaster and Chile Cook-off (with a $100 first prize) and a horse drawn plowing demonstration by Apache Junction’s own Laura Ward and her team of Clydesdale horses. For the young and the young at heart, there will be a free throw contest with cash prizes for each age grouping, vegetable art projects sponsored by the Mesa Urban Garden and free face painting by the famous Navajo artist Sidney Begay. Live music will provide a harmonious backdrop throughout the event. Call 480-986-1145 for more information.

Crop Failure and Growth

During the festival, the Clydesdales will perform a function that is bigger than a simple demonstration of working horses; their efforts will create a second field for the chile farm, allowing The Crazy Chile Farm volunteers to rotate future crops, avoiding a recurrence of this past season’s disaster.

In an email to The Apache Junction/Gold Canyon News, The Crazy Chile Farm Manager Bill Robinson told the story, “This past May was a huge month with record production, followed by total disaster. Because we had not rotated our crop in three years, we had a buildup of a pathogen called Verticillium Wilt. 80% of our plants were lost, and we’ve spent the remainder of the year playing catch-up.” The field to be plowed during the Desert Harvest Festival will allow volunteers at the farm to alternate planting seasons, giving each field time to rest and regain viability, protecting future crops from similar fates.

Despite the catastrophic season, the resilient staff at the farm managed to continue and even extend their mission. Robinson explained, “With cash reserves from the 2016 crop and the big month in May, we have been able to maintain our support to community service projects. Most notably, by combining our cash resources with the Million Meals for our Neighbors program at Transfiguration Episcopal Church, we were able to use our reserves to provide funding for 27,500 pounds of emergency food for the victims of Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area.”

About Crazy Chile Farm

In 2015, volunteers from the church decided to turn their community garden into a commercial chile farm. By focusing their efforts on a unique 400-year-old landrace chile and marketing to fine restaurants and specialty food shops, they were able to channel the profits to organizations that already had established food collection, purchasing and distribution networks. “There is actually a twenty to one multiplier of our money for anything we contribute through food banks affiliated with Feeding America (formerly America’s Second Harvest),” Robinson explained. “Therefore, a hundred dollar grant to a soup kitchen or box program allows them to buy 2000 pounds of food.”

Working through A Million Meals for Our Neighbors, United Food Bank, AJ Reach Out Food Bank, Community Alliance Against Family Abuse, Project HELP, Hope Women’s Center and Refugee Focus at Lutheran Social Services, The Crazy Chile Farm has provided 54,500 meals, plus an additional  $5000 for service organizations.

The Crazy Chile Farm is operated entirely by volunteers who work as farmers, food processors, pickers, packers, irrigation specialists, salespeople and bookkeepers. Help is always welcome.

For more information about The Crazy Chile Farm, contact: 480-986-1145 or email:

Lawsuit with PCSO Deputy is Reinstated by Appeals Judge

Deputy Rankin’s account undermined by witness videos and testimony from other police officers

A judge for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has reinstated the wrongful death lawsuit against a Pinal County deputy who shot an unarmed man in Eloy in 2014.

The civil suit was filed by the victim’s family after the Arizona Attorney General’s Office cleared PCSO deputy Heath Rankin of criminal wrong-doing for shooting 40-year-old Manuel Orosco Longoria twice in the back as he was apparently surrendering.

The civil suit was dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton, who concluded that Deputy Rankin and the Sheriff’s office were entitled to immunity.

9th Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt reinstated the civil suit on October 10, 2017, writing that video evidence and testimony from other law enforcement agencies at the scene made Rankin’s account of the shooting less credible.

The ruling in favor of the victim’s family, if not overturned, assures that the case will be heard before a jury and does not mean Longoria’s family have won the suit.

The shooting occurred in January, 2014 around 1 p.m. after a 70-minute car chase with Longoria, who was driving his brother-in-law’s car. The car had been reported stolen from Casa Grande the night before. Court records state that the chase was being handled by the Eloy Police Department, and PCSO was asked to “standby.” The victim stopped to talk with officers several times, but did not surrender. It was noted by one of the Eloy officers that Longoria was holding a wallet behind his back, not a gun.

Longoria was stopped when Eloy police disabled the car. He left the vehicle and was surrounded by eight officers with guns drawn. According to court records Rankin was directed to stay a half block from the scene and establish a perimeter, but instead took his semi-automatic rifle and sprinted to the scene.

A witness video shows Longoria still standing after being tased and hit by bean bag rounds. The suspect then turned his back on the officers and raised his hands above his head seconds before two fatal shots were fired by Rankin. There is no indication of a lunge toward the car and no weapon was found at the scene.

In his ruling, Judge Reinhardt stated that the video evidence raised “material questions of fact about the reasonableness of Rankin’s actions and the credibility of his post-hoc justification of his conduct.”

Two Sides to Panthers’ Victory

IPS Wins Fourth Game, Loses Top Rusher for Season

By Daniel Dullum

Imagine Prep-Superstition return to the football win column on Oct. 6 was the old good news/bad news situation.

The Panthers defeated Canyon State Academy 30-12 in CAA Division III play at Queen Creek, but it was a costly win, as IPS lost its leading rusher for the season.

Junior running back Jonathan Anaya scored twice before leaving the game following a helmet-on-helmet collision. Anaya underwent precautionary tests at a Chandler hospital, which Coach Sean Freeman said, “went well.”

“Jonathan is doing good,” Freeman said. “The MRI’s came back negative, there was no spinal injury. He has a slipped disc, which, unfortunately, cancels the rest of his season. But he’s up walking around. He wanted to come to practice, but we told him to stay home, relax, and get better.”

“He’ll have a lot of rehab to do, but Jonathan’s a fighter. He’s already planning to come back and run better next year. So, it was a big scare for everybody.”

On a more positive note, Freeman was excited about the Panthers’ return to the win column.    Quarterback Valentin Ontiveros threw a touchdown pass to Joseph Ontiveros and ran for another. Jonathan Benavidez scored the other Imagine Prep touchdown.

“It felt great,” Freeman said. “It was the win we needed. Our kids know they can still be playoff contenders and they want to get better. We’ve watched film and addressed our flaws.”

The Panthers improved to 4-2 overall, and have a bye week before returning to action on Oct. 20, when they host American Leadership Academy-Ironwood. Game time is 7 p.m. at Highland Jr. High in Mesa.

“The bye week is huge because we’ve got some kids who need to heal up,” Freeman said. “It came at the right time for us.”

The Panthers are in a three-way tie with Heritage-Mesa and ALA-Ironwood, each with a 4-2 record as of Oct. 12. Defeating ALA-Ironwood would give IPS a chance to clinch a playoff berth with a win over AZ Compass-Sequoia on Oct. 26.

“This is a big game for us (against ALA-I) to earn that No. 3 spot in the playoffs,” Freeman said. “We’re up, we’re motivated. A lot of our seniors see that the season is getting shorter and they can see the playoffs.

“The mindset is ‘hey, we’re going to grind. This is where it’s win or go home.’ They want to keep going.”


The season isn’t over yet, but two of Imagine Prep-Superstition’s players have landed on’s radar.

Offensive lineman David Webb and quarterback Valentin Ontiveros – both seniors – are on the collegiate scouting website’s list of Arizona high school players to watch.

On Ontiveros, the site said: “I’m not sure how his skillset would translate over to the AIA level, but I do enjoy watching Ontiveros work in this offense. He’s a quick decision maker and good overall athlete that seems very comfortable with the ball in his hands.” said of Webb: “This is supposed to be one of the Canyon Athletic Association’s better players in the trenches. This is a short highlight but I really like his quickness off the ball on both sides of the line. Someone to keep track of in the future.”

“All the so-called experts missed them,” Freeman said. “They looked at the film, and D-Webb popped out. For him to come back after being out for two weeks and have a phenomenal game against ALA, made it well worth it.”

Freeman said Ontiveros and Webb are the first CAA players to be recognized by

“It’s definitely a good look for us,” Freeman said.. “We’re trying to find an all-star game for David because he deserves that. We have some other seniors who are deserving, but David will be the first to represent us, and we’re honored by that.

“This is huge for our program. Hopefully, eyes will look in the direction of what we’re doing here. They’ll hopefully see that kids from Imagine Prep are going to college to play football and being recognized for doing some big things.”

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