Scottsdale Saguaro running back Marqui Johnson may have to sit out his senior football season because of the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s prior-contact rule.
Johnson, considered one of the most dynamic offensive players in the state, lost his hardship on Wednesday, but will appeal the decision with the AIA’s Executive Board on Aug. 20
The AIA is hearing close to 100 hardship cases this week.
In the summer, Johnson transferred from Scottsdale Chaparral, where he was a starter his sophomore and junior seasons. He would have been the Firebirds’ go-to playmaker with junior quarterback Jack Miller and junior running back Darvon Hubbard. Miller and Hubbard are both committed to Ohio State.
The AIA felt there was prior contact because a former Chaparral assistant coach joined coach Jason Mohns’ staff before Johnson made the move.
Ronald Johnson, Marqui’s dad, said there was no interaction between his son and the former Chaparral assistant last year other than “hi and bye.”
The elder Johnson said his son had no qualms with playing at Chaparral, where he was a featured player. He wouldn’t publicly go into specifics on why he wanted out of the school, but said it was for “personal issues and the safety of my son.”
Johnson will try to further prove to the AIA that this move was unforeseeable and unavoidable.
The prior-contact rule was put in about a decade ago because of an influx of club coaches becoming high school coaches and athletes transferring to play for their club coach.
There was no close relationship between Johnson and the former Chaparral coach who was not his position coach. But AIA Executive Director David Hines said, “That’s not a determining factor.”
“The intent of the rule is that you can’t follow a coach, regardless,” Hines said.
Ronald Johnson feels the rule needs to be “overhauled.”
“The rule traps students who may need to relocate for various reasons,” Johnson said. “If the coach who left did not instruct the incoming athlete, it should not apply.
“He also is not a paid Saguaro coach. He volunteers.”
“Marqui is a great young man and it is an unfortunate situation for him,” Mohns said in a text.
Johnson, 5-foot-9, 170 pounds, will miss Saguaro’s opener Friday night against San Tan Valley Poston Butte. Saguaro has won five consecutive state football championships, a state-record streak.
In the last two varsity seasons at Chaparral, Johnson had 1,343 yards rushing, 729 yards receiving and a total of 22 touchdowns.