Scottsdale Saguaro (Scottsdale, Ariz.) High School’s season of adversity ended with another state football championship celebration in the middle of a big stadium.
Marqui Johnson, who beat the Arizona Interscholastic Association in court to become eligible late in the season, returned a kickoff 90 yards for a momentum-changing touchdown.
A defense that missed a huge piece late in the year after five-star recruit Kelee Ringo became ineligible for a code of conduct school violation made big stop after big stop in the second half.
And the Sabercats rolled to their sixth consecutive state championship with a 42-16 victory over Salpointe Catholic (Tucson, Ariz.) on Friday night at Arizona Stadium.
The 4A title adds to Saguaro’s state record steak and gives the school its 12th championship overall, starting in 1995.
It was the second year in a row that Salpointe accepted the runners-up trophy in its back yard.
“I don’t know if it feels better and better but it sure feels damn good,” coach Jason Mohns said about the state-record streak that he started in his second season leading the Saguaro program. “We’re not tired of it. We love it. We work hard at it. It’s a culmination of a year’s worth of work from the coaches and the players.”
The Saguaro community never gets tired of winning. But there are always interesting subplots.
This season was full of them, starting with Johnson, who could have easily surrendered to the AIA and given up on playing his senior season.
After transferring from Scottsdale Chaparral in the summer, Johnson had to fight the AIA Executive Board, which ruled he violated a prior-contact rule because a new Saguaro assistant was part of Chaparral’s staff last year.
“The whole transfer situation and the AIA deal was worth it,” Johnson said. “We put in work. This is what happens when you have patience. A lot of kids would have given up once they heard they wouldn’t be able to play the whole season.”
Without a lawyer, Ron Johnson, Marqui’s dad, took the AIA to court. A judge ruled in favor of Marqui, feeling the AIA didn’t have evidence to prove that Johnson had direct contact with the Saguaro assistant at Chaparral last season.
Johnson pounced on his opportunity and opened up a whole new dimension to Saguaro’s already talented offense.
To cap it off with a celebration, Johnson was in a daze, calling the moment “surreal.”