By Matt Williams
---- — The Trinity College football program was looking to add another dimension to their offense going into next year.
By landing Pingree School senior wide receiver Johnnie Spears, the Bantams have done so in a big way.
One of the most electric players on the North Shore over the last two seasons, Spears scored 42 touchdowns in his final 15 games as a Highlander. The Haverhill native is bringing a rare combination of speed, moves and hands to Division 3 Trinity, a team that seems to be in the hunt for the NESCAC title every year.
“Johnnie really enjoyed what he heard from the coaches there. He felt like they had confidence in him and really let him know how he could fit into their offense going forward,” said Pingree head coach Chris Powers. “They let him know about the excitement they felt he could bring to their team.”
Spears did plenty of damage in three seasons at Pingree. He had 74 catches for 1,735 yards and 20 TDs while rushing for 1,456 yards and 23 more scores. He’ll be focusing on the receiver position in college, and will also have a chance to return kickoffs and punts (he had 5 return TDs in his Pingree career).
“That was definitely another selling point. Johnnie wanted to play offense,” said Powers. “There were some schools looking at him as a defensive back, (so) he’s excited about being able to play slot receiver.”
With the ball in his hands at Pingree, Spears (a two-time Salem News all-star) averaged 14.76 yards per touch.
“The best word is unique,” Powers said. “Johnnie has the ability, when he gets that ball in open space, to make incredible things happen.
“Johnnie has great hands, a great game sense and he’s very creative. He can go to full speed and move side to side without losing an ounce of speed, without breaking stride.”
Spears is joining a hearty football tradition at Trinity. The Bantams have a 51-game home winning streak and seem to have a momentous rivalry with every team in the NESCAC. That includes Amherst, where Spears’ older brother Jaymie is a defensive back. The elder Spears played for Haverhill High and then St. Mark’s school before matriculating to Amherst.
“As an athlete, who wouldn’t want to be part of something like that?” Powers said. “The excitement they have at their home games is great, and to know you’re most likely playing for a title at the end of every season, what more could you ask for? And he gets to play against his brother at Amherst, too.”
Pingree also has Brendan Oliver, the Highlanders’ quarterback who graduated in 2011, playing at Trinity as the starting tight end. “I would’ve loved to see that combination on our field,” Powers quipped.
For Spears, there was no matching the allure of the football culture at Trinity and the educational advantages that the NESCAC schools provide.
“We think it’s fabulous. Trinity is a place that’s done a great job athletically both in football and other sports. We have a number of girls lacrosse players there that competed for a national championship,” Powers added. “Ultimately, it was a place to great education and have the opportunities he wanted on the football field.”