National Football Signing Day
By Daniel Dullum
Brandon Cates, Angelo Johnson, and brothers Valentin and Joseph Ontiveros of Imagine Prep-Superstition aren’t letting a colder climate get in the way of pursuing their collective dream of playing college football.
Cates is headed to Division III Hiram College in Ohio, while the other three signed on as a package deal to play for College of St. Scholastica, a D-III school in Duluth, Minn.
The four signed their national letters of intent on Feb. 7.
“The credit goes to (assistant coach) Eric Sandry. He chopped the video up and blasted every school out there,” Panthers Head Coach Sean Freeman said. “We had a goal to hit the D-II, D-III, NAIAs. Hiram getting Brandon right away was huge.
“Having this many kids signing puts us on the map now as a program.”
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Cates, who started football with Imagine Prep in its 8-man days, has, at one time or another, played quarterback, running back, tight end, wide receiver and linebacker.
As a senior, Cates made 25 total tackles – six solo, along with 4.0 sacks and 11 for loss of yardage. On offense, Cates ran 12 times for 98 yards and a touchdown.
“(Hiram) found me not too long after our stats were posted online, and in a few weeks, they got a hold of the coaches and got a hold of me,” Cates said. “Ever since I was a little kid, this was my goal and one of my biggest dreams.
“Because their senior running back is graduating, they want me to come in and take his spot,” he added, noting that the number of positions he’s played at Prep helped him land at Hiram.
“It helped a lot to play at multiple positions. If they don’t need me at running back, I can play receiver or tight end, because I’ve played them before and I’ll know what I’m doing.”
Cates, who plans to major in veterinary science, said playing for two different coaching staffs helped prepare him for college football.
“I got taught one way, then another way, and learned that I can adjust.”
Freeman said, “I told him that with this opportunity – linebacker and running back – you’ve got great hands, and you never know. Brandon is a good athlete and I think, at the next level, stiffer competition will help him a lot.”
Valentin Ontiveros, Joseph Ontiveros and Johnson each transferred to IPS from Mesa Sequoia after their junior year. Valentin completed 77 of 164 passes for 1,136 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2017, and was intercepted six times.
Playing college football was a long-term goal for Valentin, who will major in business management. “But I didn’t plan on going to Duluth to do it! I just researched the school and I thought it was a good school.”
“Valentin will be an impact player from day one,” Freeman said. “He’s the most underrated quarterback in the state. I think if Val had some exposure, he’d be a top ten quarterback in Arizona.
“He’s quiet off the field, but he’s a leader on it. He’s running things, a very smart kid who can dissect a defense and if you give him some time, he’ll slice you up!”
Joseph Ontiveros caught 26 passes for 400 yards and four TDs, and caught two passes, one for a touchdown.
“They’re getting a kid in Joseph who is just tough,” Freeman said. “Joseph had six schools looking at him, including a new D-II school in Boston. At first, I thought it was fake, so I emailed the coach, and he called me the next day and said, ‘We like Joseph.’ He’s a tough kid who embodies what we have here. Great hands, deceptive speed, and a kid who will work hard for you.”
“I thought St. Scholastica was a good spot to go to, and my brother and friends are going there, so it’ll be good,” Joseph said, adding that he will major in art and, possibly, engineering. “They’re going to put me at receiver and that’s where I want to stay.”
Johnson, a 5-11, 264 offensive and defensive lineman, made 32 total tackles – 11 solo and 21 assisted – for the Panthers, including 15 tackles for loss of yardage and 8.0 sacks.
Early in the recruiting game, Johnson thought he might be headed to Mayville State (N.D.), but found his way instead to St. Scholastica.
“I just found (St. Scholastica) more interesting,” Johnson explained. “I didn’t know much about Minnesota, other than it’s cold. They want me for the defensive line.”
“Angelo had four schools that were serious about him,” Freeman said. “We thought it was going to be Mayville, but last week, they had a change of heart. Angelo felt that St. Scholastica really wanted him. We had a Skype with one of the coaches, who said, ‘Angelo Johnson, we’re waiting for you!’ Angelo said, ‘That’s where I want to go.’”
Playing in college was a long-term goal for Johnson, who will major in psychology. “It didn’t matter which college, as long as I get there.”
Photo above: Imagine Prep-Superstition football players Brandon Cates, Angelo Johnson, Joseph Ontiveros and Valentin Ontiveros display their college letters of intent.