, Salem, MA


September 20, 2013

Moving The Chains: Electric talent; Pingree's Johnnie Spears is the best North Shore football player you've never seen


Most of the time, Spears lines up in the slot. In the Highlanders’ no huddle, fast-paced spread offense, they love to get the ball to their athletes in space and let them do what they do best. No one is better at this than Spears, who often has absurd mismatches when linebackers try to cover him 1-on-1.

“Sometimes I’ll see (a linebacker) across the line from me and just give him a smile,” said Spears with a soft chuckle.

“We run a lot of screens, which is where I get most of my receiving yards. I like to joke with our quarterbacks that if (they) throw me a screen, that’s the quickest way to get (their) passing yards up.”

Seven of the 24 passes Spears caught last year went for touchdowns. His receiving yards totalled 607; he led the Highlanders in all three categories.

Pingree will also line him up in the backfield, where he carried 48 times for 595 yards a year ago. Again, he hit paydirt often with 10 scores via the the ground.

That means Spears had 72 touches either rushing or catching the football last year and scored an amazing 17 times — or nearly 24 percent of the time. He also returned a punt to the house.

“And coach said I can plan on getting the ball a lot more this season,” said Spears, whose brother Jamie started at Amherst College as a freshman in 2012. “I’m ready to make the most of those.”

Defensively, Spears is a demon at cornerback; he picked off three passes this preseason as opponents look at his size, figure they can exploit the matchup and end up getting burned. He also packs a wallop; according to Powers, he trucked the returning Evergreen League MVP from the Hyde (Conn.) School last week en route to a touchdown.

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