For Peat’s Sake
Cassius Peat’s seven-year journey, from 2015 Tempe Corona del Sol High grad, to present day, has seen more home addresses than a Valley realtor showing houses.
Now the once decorated four-star football recruit, who is also the only four-time, 6A Arizona high school basketball state champion, has found a home in the far southeast Valley, and is focused on making an impact from the sideline, instead of on the field, as the new head football (and basketball) coach at Heritage Academy Gateway, a 1000-student charter school in Queen Creek.
Excited to start my coaching career as the Head Varsity Football Coach at Heritage Academy Gateway! pic.twitter.com/wStNOoZWSY
— Cassius Peat (@coachpeat) May 6, 2022
“Our main thing is take it one step at a time and try to get one percent better everyday,” Peat said to the “Zone Read” in a recent phone interview. “We’re going to focus on fundamentals, practicing the right way, playing the right way. We’re going to be working very hard this off-season leading up to our first season coming up here in a couple of months. So far it’s been a great opportunity to build a positive culture.”
The Heroes will play 8-man football and compete in the Canyon Athletic Association when they take the field for the first time this fall.
The well-traveled Peat is somewhat familiar with the 8-man game (on a smaller 50-yard indoor field) as a former player with the Arizona Rattlers in the Indoor Football League. It was one of his many playing stops (Michigan State, Pima Community College, Scottsdale Community College, University of Virginia) before deciding it was time to hang up the shoulder pads for good and coach.
“I had some serious thoughts about it when I was playing because I never knew how far I would end up playing,” he explained. “So, I definitely knew I wanted to get into coaching and impact lives.”
One of those lives will be Peat’s 18 month-old son, Cassius Peat, Jr.
The Peat family here in Arizona is synonymous with athletic success. Father Todd Peat was an offensive linemen for the then Phoenix Cardinals. Todd, Jr. played college football at Nebraska and Texas A&M Commerce. Andrus Peat was an All-American at Stanford, first-round pick, and now a Pro Bowl guard for the New Orleans Saints. Sisters Leilani and Maya Peat play college basketball at the University of San Francisco and Arkansas Pine-Bluff, respectively, while the youngest of the seven siblings, 6’8 point guard/wing Koa Peat, a soon-to-be sophomore at Perry High, is considered one of the top 2025 recruits in the nation.
— Koa Seward Peat (@kpeat10) May 18, 2022
Coming from a family of high-level college athletes, Peat understands first-hand how the transfer portal has changed the game at all levels.
“I think it’s bad for high school athletes…the lower recruited high school athletes,” he said. “The four and five-star recruited guys I think will be ok but I know now, most of the big schools like Michigan State are getting players from the portal. Like (Seattle Seahawks rookie running back) Kenneth Walker was at Wake Forest. It’s bad for high school athletes but good for the older guys, the graduate guys. It’s a lot different.”
Peat, who played basketball at Corona for the legendary Sammy Duane (now at Perry) and had a star-studded collection of teammates like Marvin Bagley III (Duke, Sacramento Kings, Detroit Pistons), Saben Lee (Vanderbilt, Pistons), Alex Barcello (Arizona, BYU), Casey Benson (Oregon, GCU), Dane Kuiper (University of New Mexico), knows, first-hand, the benefits of being a two-sport athlete in high school.
“I know, from experience, it helps,” he said. “It helps laterally. It helps with a lot of things. Jumping. Movement. Fluidity. That goes the same for other sports. I know track is very good for our football guys. The running and the hip movement. I think it’s very important.”
Peat said Heritage Academy will only have a varsity football team this fall in their inaugural season and he plans on attending a spring practice at his alma mater to watch the Aztecs under first-year head coach Jake Barro.
Excited to watch this first chapter unfold, Coach Peat.
Roch and a Hard Place
Being a big-time, two-sport high school athlete can bring big-time crossroads, like the one staring Hamilton senior-to-be Roch Cholowsky squarely in the face.
Tuesday night, the Huskies’ starting shortstop celebrated with teammates after run-ruling rival Chandler to win the 6A state championship at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
STATE CHAMPS 2022 pic.twitter.com/jlTE1ZBcL2
— Roch Cholowsky (@CholowskyRoch) May 18, 2022
Now, what about football?
If you don’t know the backstory, you’d think this is a no-brainer.
Cholowsky is head coach Mike Zdebski’s clear-cut starter at quarterback with Nicco Marchiol now at West Virginia. The 6’2, 185-pounder saw extended action as a sophomore, filling in for the injured Marchiol late in the year, and spot duty last season for the 11-1 Premiere Region Champions who again qualified for the Open Division Playoffs. He understands offensive coordinator Jeremy Kitamura’s scheme, is more than familiar with his returning linemen and skill players, and is also one of the best punters in Arizona.
The “problem” is Cholowsky isn’t just a good baseball player, he’s an elite baseball player…with a full ride scholarship to UCLA waiting and/or a sizable Major League Baseball contract likely sitting in front of him if the second-highest rated prep shortstop on the west coast decides to forego college and enter the 2023 MLB Draft.
— Canes Baseball (@TheCanesBB) March 3, 2022
He holds a football offer from New Mexico State, while UCLA, Miami and others have shown interest but have yet to extend a scholarship opportunity.
We’ve seen some pretty talented southeast Valley quarterbacks offered late in their prep career, most notably Brock Purdy, but with so much ahead of Cholowsky in baseball, is it time to turn in the Hamilton playbook and focus on the diamond full-time heading into his senior year later this summer?
Unfinished buisness. Great team win tonight. Onto the playoffs! #10-0 pic.twitter.com/f73pnlX8fz
— Roch Cholowsky (@CholowskyRoch) November 13, 2021
From the people “Zone Read” has spoken to, Cholowsky loves football, loves to compete, and loves to lead – all the intangible qualities you want and, equally as important, need when you’re competing at the highest level in Arizona high school football.
On the other end of the spectrum, according to many reports, he’s a Top 50 prospect, with a slotted MLB signing value of about $1.7 million if he decided to turn pro next summer and was selected in the early-to-mid second round. Another strong prep and showcase tour could elevate his draft status even higher, particularly as MLB teams re-access their high draft priorities this winter.
One big hit or one bad cut on the gridiron could change all that in an instant.
Is one more year of football worth it?
After helping lead Pinnacle to the 2017-18 6A State Basketball Championship as a junior, top quarterback prospect Spencer Rattler skipped playing basketball his senior season to focus on football before enrolling at Oklahoma.
Wednesday Hamilton participated in the Chandler Unified School District recruiting jamboree. Chowlowsky, not surprisingly, didn’t participate but with passing league events scheduled in the coming weeks, the decision on his football future will likely be much clearer sooner rather than later.
Regardless of Cholowsky’s conclusion. the Huskies’ quarterback room will look different this summer. Junior Xavier Newman transferred to Perry, while Hamilton added 6’3, 210-pound 2025 QB Jaxon Knutson who played his freshman season at Chandler.
The County Crossover: Maricopa (Scottsdale, central Phoenix)
The tour stays in the Valley this week as good friend of the “Zone Read,” ArizonaVarsity.com’s Cody Cameron weighs in on a few of the most successful programs in the East Valley, as well as another team to keep an eye on in 2022.
Let’s start with the Open Division Champions. Saguaro, unquestionably, has the most talented group of skill players in the state, but lost a ton of experience on the offensive line. What will Jason Mohns’ o-line look like in 2022? “Saguaro did lose multiple starters up front, including one of the best offensive linemen in the entire state last season in Parker Brailsford (now at the University of Washington), but the Sabercats do have a nice crop of 2023, 2024, and 2025’s ready to step up. Let’s also not forgot that Saguaro has one of the top AZHS football offensive coaches in Mark Martinez. If anybody can get that group ready to compete at the highest level every single week in 6A, it’s him. Name to watch out for is 2025 tackle Logan Powell, the youngster already has multiple Power 5 offers.”
Chaparral head coach Brent Barnes has been spoiled at quarterback with Jack Miller and, most recently, Brayten Silbor. With Silbor off to Lehigh, what does the QB room look like at ChapTown? “Ever since I’ve been down here [in Phoenix] Eric, Chaparral has had a Division I caliber quarterback under center.
— Bryce Herges (@BryceHerges) January 1, 2022
That trend doesn’t look like it’s ending anytime soon as their Class of 2025 gun-slinger, Bryce Herges, picked up an offer from the University of Nevada this spring. I’m excited to watch Herges develop and get varsity snaps this fall.”
All Andy Litton did in his first season at Horizon was win a 5A State Championship. What storyline are you following with the Huskies as they look to run it back this fall? “Coach Litton is an incredible head coach and his Horizon squad had a really special year last season. Crazy thing is, they might be even more dangerous this season.
FAST FACT: Defending 5A champion Horizon returns RB Wesley Lambert, who rushed for 1,694 yards and 21 TDs as a junior. Lambert (5-9, 170) also recently squatted 455 pounds.
— Gridiron Arizona (@gridironarizona) May 18, 2022
They return their top running back in Wesley Lambert, leading receiver Cole Linyard, and their Power 5 committed tight end, Matthew Klopfenstein. I love Linyard. He’s an explosive playmaker who is also a tremendous route runner. That offense is going to put up massive numbers this season.”
You can’t help but be impressed with the job Conrad Hamilton has done at Desert Mountain. The Wolves went 12-2 in 2021 and return several key players. The slate this fall has hurdles (Cactus, Mesa Mountain View, Chaparral) but could Hamilton raise the bar even higher in 2022? “Desert Mountain has the talent to not only compete, but beat those teams that you mentioned.
Extremely Blessed to have Received and Earned an offer to THEE University of Oregon!! #ScoDucks 🦆🦆🦆 @KennyDillingham @bangulo @oregonfootball @coachconrad41 @DMWolvesFB @GregBiggins pic.twitter.com/cABKQ1nb1L
— Dylan Tapley 6’4.5 205 2024 (@dylantapley3) May 6, 2022
They have a LOADED 2024 class and a lot of those players received quality varsity experience/reps last season. I’m excited to see how far this team can go this fall.”
What central Phoenix or Scottsdale school (not listed above) are you most excited to see more of this spring/summer and why? “I try not to play favorites in the state, but it’s hard not to root for head coach Chandler Hovik and his Central Bobcats squad. That team gets better every year and they have some studs in the 2023 and 2024 Class. Look out for their 2023 linebacker, Aaron Francis, to be one of the top LB’s in the 5A division this year. That kid’s a monster.”