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If you didn’t already know she was Hillcrest High’s new head soccer coach, you might have mistaken Kyra Peery for one of her players at Thursday’s meet-and-greet with prospective team-members and parents. The former college athlete stood shoulder-to-shoulder with her team captains whom she invited on stage to explain goals for the coming year, their easy banter a mark of their growing camaraderie.

“My passion for coaching is fueled by the energy that these girls bring to the program,” she said.

Hillcrest is getting a new school and a new soccer program to match. Crews break ground next summer on a rebuild of the home of the Huskies, which will include a new, state-of-the-art fieldhouse.

“Girls are going to want to come here to play soccer. We’re looking for athletes that are committed to soccer, committed to the program and committed to becoming one pack, one goal,” said Peery, who comes with years of experience as an all-conference cross country rPeerykids.jpgunner and starting midfielder at William Penn University.

This will be Peery’s first year as head coach, but she is no stranger to the team, having served as their assistant coach for three years. She’s married to Brock Peery, a popular math teacher who doubles as the team’s fitness coach. The duo will share duties with goalie coach Dan Pia, and two assistant coaches, Laura Benson and Robin Cecil, a Doctor of Physical Therapy who will bring a focus on injury prevention.

Peery is coaching to win, but not by chasing the leaderboard, said Assistant Principal Justin Matagi. “She’s coaching to build a winning team, which means putting the well-being and development of her players first.”

To build a strong junior varsity pipeline, Peery and her coaching team will prioritize skills-building, teamwork and strength and conditioning. Once players reach the varsity level, they’ll be expected to earn their time on the field. But the emphasis will always be on player development and teamwork. “That’s important. The confidence that comes from being part of a team is what enables you to do hard things. It empowers you, and you can pour this competitive edge that you peeryportrait.jpgdevelop in soccer into anything you do,” Peery told her players.

To build pride and a winning attitude, the coaches are expecting players to always wear their practice uniforms, black shorts and a gray shirt. To build up the team’s resilience, they are considering test-piloting a sports injury prevention program. And they’ll be using a popular app to keep in close communication with everyone, including parents.

“We’re lucky to have her,” Matagi said. “Just in the past month to see the energy and organization that Coach Peery and the others have brought has been amazing.”

With off-season just around the corner, there’s not a minute to lose, Peery said. “It starts here and it starts now.”
A familiar face will lead Hillcrest High into the shine of this fall’s Friday Night Lights.

Not only have Husky fans spotted him on the sidelines at Schick Stadium, students see him every day in the hallways and psychology class.

Ron Hill, the Huskies’ former offensive coordinator and a current teacher in Hillcrest’s vaunted International Baccalaureate program, this week was announced as the school’s new head football coach.

Hill, who also previously coached at Judge Memorial Catholic High School, was chosen after a national search. His appointment was announced to the faculty on Thursday, and Hill and some members of the coaching staff met with returning and prospective players on Friday afternoon.

“Our search was exhaustive. We really looked for the best-possible fit for us here at Hillcrest. We are confident that we did that,” Assistant Principal Justin Matagi said at the team meeting.  “With Coach Hill, we think we can keep up the momentum we’ve trying to build over the past couple of years.”

Hill, a University of Utah product, succeeds Cazzie Brown, who died a few weeks into last season from complications of a viral infection. The team, riding on a high from a berth in the state playoffs at the end of Brown’s first year, reeled in mourning — and never recovered.   

“We were on our way, you guys. We were making steps,” Hill acknowledged on Friday as players, many of them clad in Husky green jerseys, stood around him. “But then a very unfortunate incident came about that affected all of us.  It was something over which we had no control, there is no doubt about that.”

The new coach hailed Brown’s legacy and asked the team to rise above the challenges they faced after his untimely death.  “He left us with one final lesson — and we all have to fight through it,” he said.  “I want to move forward, and It’s time to move forward.”

 Hill also laid bare his expectations, both in the classroom and the playing field, for those donning the Hillcrest uniform. Failing grades — or failures to attend practice — will not be tolerated, he said. Dedication and commitment to learning will be hallmarks of the Husky program, Hill told the players.

“I’m an academic.  It means everything to me,” he said.  “You are going to so much farther with what you have up here (in your head) than with how well you can catch a football.”

But he also plans on being competitive. The “old school” training will be intensive and designed to build “big guys” and “monsters,” he said. Hill also asked the members of the team for some help recruiting more players. In order to be successful, he said, the team needs a deeper bench.  “Fellas,” he said, “I need numbers.” 

For Hill, who has started the Twitter account @coachhillhhh to communicate with the community, the chance the helm the Huskies’ football team is “absolutely a dream come true.”

“We are back online and we are fired up,” he said. “I can’t tell you how excited I am.”
Wednesday, 30 August 2017 14:17

Remembering Hillcrest Coach Cazzie Brown

College funds have been established benefitting children of the late Hillcrest High head football Coach Cazzie Brown.

Coach Brown passed away Sunday, Aug. 27 from complications of a viral infection. A mentor with a distinct gift for inspiring young people to achieve, whether in the classroom or the football field, “Caz” was a champion of higher education.

“We’ve had such an outpouring of support from schools and school districts throughout Utah. As students, colleagues and friends mourn, many have asked if there’s anything they can do to support his three children in their educational goals,” said Canyons District Foundation Director Laura Barlow. “So, we created Utah Educational Savings Plans in their names.”

The Foundation is accepting donations online. Checks also can be made out to the Canyons Education Foundation and earmarked for the Cazzie Brown college funds.

A native of Houston, Texas, and former football player for Idaho State University, Coach Brown came to Hillcrest in 2016 by way of Judge Memorial and Highland High where he served as defensive coordinator and defensive assistant, respectively. In a short amount of time, with his deep love for students and his motto ‘One Pack, One Goal,’ he brought new energy and positivity to Hillcrest and its football program.

Beloved by his students, he was a caring, passionate educator, a respected colleague and a dear friend. Caz will forever be remembered as the Coach who brought pride back to Husky Land, and he will be greatly missed.

On Tuesday, more than a thousand students and community members gathered on Hillcrest's football field to light lit candles at a vigil in Coach Brown's memory. This coming Friday, the Huskies go up against Highland Rams, Coach Brown’s former team. As a show of unity, the two teams plan to enter the field together, two-by-two and shoulder to shoulder. Fans are being asked to wear white. Brown’s family is holding a celebration of life on the field the following day, Saturday, Sept. 2 at 10 a.m.

Photos of the candlelight vigil are courtesy of Kristin Murphy from the Deseret News.

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  • Canyons District mourns the death of Cazzie Brown, the head football coach at Hillcrest High.  The school community and its supporters have been encouraged to wear green today in a show of solidary and support for Coach Brown’s loved ones. 

    The school issued the following message to parents and students early this morning: 

    The administration, faculty and staff of Hillcrest High want to express our appreciation for the support you have shown our school community and Coach Cazzie Brown who passed away late Sunday, Aug. 27 from complications of a viral infection. A native of Houston, Texas, and former football player for Idaho State University, Coach Brown came to Hillcrest in 2016 by way of Judge Memorial and Highland High where he served as defensive coordinator and defensive assistant, respectively. In a short amount of time, with his deep love for students and his motto ‘One Pack, One Goal,’ he brought new energy and positivity to Hillcrest and its football program. Beloved by his students, he was a caring, passionate educator, a respected colleague and a dear friend. Caz will forever be remembered as the Coach who brought pride back to Husky Land, and he will be greatly missed. Counselors will be on hand today and throughout the week to support anyone who is struggling to process difficult emotions.” 

    A candlelight vigil will be held on the football field at 9 p.m. tonight.
    Fifteen-year-old survives lung surgery to compete in national bowling championship 

    Emily Pelzer was just 7 years old when she first saw a school flier inviting kids to come bowling. It seemed like it could be fun, so she asked her mom if they could go.

    Eight years later, the soon-to-be sophomore at Hillcrest is still bowling — but the sport has become much more than a hobby. It’s a lifeline.

    It turns out Pelzer is a natural at the sport. One year after she showed up to the bowling alley for the first time, the 8-year-old won her first national title, representing Utah in the national competition. Now that she’s 15, Pelzer has earned seven national titles in all, and this weekend she is going for another.

    To face 4,500 competitors in the national bowling competition is a challenge of its own. But Pelzer has an ace up her sleeve. To her, bowling isn’t just a fun way to pass the time. It’s a metaphor for life. “You can learn a lot from it,” Pelzer says after finishing a long day working at Fat Cats bowling alley.

    The last time Pelzer took her title to the countrywide competition, she placed 21 out of 450 competitors — and unbeknownst to her, she was playing with a partially collapsed lung. Pelzer’s mother, Sheri Harding, found her daughter on the floor not long after that game, lethargic and blue from the lack of oxygen reaching her system.

    Pelzer, they later discovered, had three dime-sized holes in her right lung, caused by a chain of events that occurred when she had an allergic reaction to something she ate in the sixth grade, which caused her to go into anaphylactic shock. To stop the shock, paramedics gave her a different medicine, which triggered a second allergic reaction. Pelzer aspirated the medicine, which burned her lungs as soon as the medicine made contact. Harding didn’t know her daughter’s lungs were damaged, but at the time, she was just focused on helping Pelzer survive.

    “They didn’t really give her much hope to actually live after she had that (first anaphylactic shock),” Harding says. “She was pretty much gone, and they brought her back, and it was really scary.”

    Since then, Pelzer has had extreme allergic reactions to other common ingredients, but she was unaware of the extent to which her lung had been damaged four years ago. In the last year, the teenager had reconstructive lung surgery to correct the problem. The recovery process nearly took over her life, but there was one thing that kept Pelzer going: bowling. 

    “I said, ‘All right, I’m not going to give up just because my lungs are giving up on me,’” Pelzer said. “I’m not going to let that happen because I know my body is more comfortable doing this sport than any other sport.”

    So, Pelzer resumed her training, working on her spares and strikes nearly every day, preparing for the national championships that take place this weekend in Ohio. Pelzer already has a full-ride scholarship to Texas A&M because of her bowling skills, but she has her eye on the top prize: a $300,000 scholarship and registration on Team USA for the next summer Olympics.

    Canyons District will be cheering this Husky on, but no matter what, she is already a hero to us.
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