By Phil Stacey
---- — SOUTH HAMILTON — There are scant few athletes in any area of athletics where you don’t feel as if they’re running, but actually gliding past their befuddled opponents.
Johnnie Spears is one of those special few.
With seemingly minimal effort, Spears ran around, through and most definitely past the defenders from Tilton Saturday afternoon, scoring four touchdowns as his squad, Pingree, rolled to a 52-14 victory in Evergreen League play.
A senior with terrific speed — “it looks like Johnnie’s not running hard, yet no one can catch him he’s so fast” said his coach, Chris Powers — Spears had six official touches against the Rams: a 66-yard punt return for a touchdown; a 62-yard pass reception off a wheel route for another score; a 45-yard run for his third TD; a 2-yard run; a 3-yard run; and a 25-yard screen pass that turned into his fourth trip to the end zone.
Spears also had a 94-yard touchdown kickoff return for a potential fifth touchdown that was called back because of a Pingree penalty.
Sophomore quarterback Griffin Beal, who is learning Pingree’s complex offense on the fly but has proven a quick story with a big arm, also played a starring role. He rushed for two scores (17 and 6 yards) while completing 6-of-8 passes for 192 yards. Spears, along with fellow captain Alex Salalayko (55 yards) and Justin Assad (50 yards), each caught two of his passes.
Pingree scored seven first half touchdowns while running just 19 offensive plays, racing out to a 49-6 halftime lead over the undermanned Rams of New Hampshire.
“You can see our quick-strike offense and its effectiveness when everyone is working together,” said Powers.
The biggest cheers on the Pingree sidelines, however, were reserved for sophomore defensive lineman Hunter Jacques of Peabody. After defensive end Erik Fyrer batted down a Tilton pass, Jacques caught the deflection and rumbled 10 yards into the end zone for his first career touchdown.
“Jacques has incredible hands for a lineman,” said Powers. “The big joke is that when we tell the kids they can take conditioning off if a lineman can catch a punt, they all want Jacquesy to step up because they know he can. That was a great moment for him.”
Fyrer, from Ipswich, had himself a big day: a sack, seven extra points and a 31-yard field goal. Assad also had a fine defensive outing with a sack of his own and several tackles behind the line of scrimmage.