METHUEN — Johnny Maginnis admits that his stat line as a varsity receiver isn’t overly impressive.
“I had one pass thrown to me and I dropped it,” said the Methuen High senior with a laugh. “It was a trick play designed for me last week. It was an unbalanced left (formation) and I was lined up as a lineman to the right. I broke free and just couldn’t bring it in. Hopefully it won’t be my last chance.”
The Rangers can more than live with that gaffe. After all, Maginnis contributes in just every other facet of the game for the surging Blue and White.
Already a force on defense at outside linebacker and defensive end, with 21 tackles so far this fall, Maginnis has taken on the role of Mr. Versatility on the offensive end, having started at wide receiver, offensive line and tight end for the red hot Rangers squad that is off to a 3-0 start for the first time in 15 years.
They will look to match that 1998 squad with a 4-0 start when they host Dracut tomorrow at 2 p.m.
“Johnny is probably our best defensive player,” said first-year Methuen football coach Tom Ryan. “He’s a standout on the defensive line and at linebacker, and we occasionally even use him at cornerback. On offense he was a very good receiver, but because of need we asked him to play offensive line and he was willing to do that, then we asked him to play tight end. He is a rare combination of smarts and athleticism to have the ability to play anywhere.”
At 6-foot-1 and a sleek 190 pounds, Maginnis looks much more the part of a skill player than someone slugging with the big boys on the line. And for three seasons, that’s exactly what he was.
As a sophomore he saw varsity time at defensive back for the Rangers, then last year began as a starting corner before converting to linebacker.
“The last couple of years were tough, finishing 3-8 both years,” he said. “It’s hard to lose games. But we felt like we had an experienced team that could do well in (2013).”
As offseason workouts began, Maginnis quickly opened the eyes of new Rangers football coach Ryan.
“He looked great at defensive back and receiver during the 7-on-7 scrimmages,” said Ryan, the former Tewksbury assistant. “We felt like he was a kid who could gain some yards as a receiver and could really cover.”
But as the season began, Ryan and Co. realized they had a pressing need elsewhere, and Maginnis received the call he never expected.
The split end was going to the line.
“I admit I didn’t really want to at first,” said Maginnis. “The linemen don’t really got too much credit. Plus, I had to change my number, which wasn’t fun. I had always been 31, and had to switch to No. 50. Just the number gives you a different feeling. You feel like a big guy. But I never thought I would really play. I just thought I would maybe see a few plays if someone got hurt.”
Last Saturday, however, when the Rangers took on Cambridge Rindge & Latin, Maginnis was in the starting lineup at offensive guard.
As the game progressed, he also moved out to slot corner on defense, so No. 50 the offensive lineman was locking up on a receiver 1-on-1.
“You don’t see that too often, do you?” he joked. “It was fun, but it was tiring being out there the whole game.”
It is defense where he has done much of his damage, with the 21 tackles and two QB hurries.
“He really is a rare breed of kid,” said Ryan. “How many people are willing, or could play corner and offensive guard? Or safety then defensive tackle? I could see him playing defensive back in college, but he is willing to play line for us. One of the big things that allows Johnny to do this is that he is very smart. He comes off as a goofball sometimes, but he is an excellent student. I don’t know what would be going on in most kids’ heads.”
Maginnis — who is currently enrolled in Advanced Placement physics, environmental science, calculus and literature — needed that brains again this week as he moved from guard to tight end. He even squeezed some study time into practice, reading the playbook as he warmed up.
“I study my plays like I do my homework,” he said. “Hours of practice make perfect. But I am willing to do anything as long as it helps the team win. I want to leave Methuen with a good takes in my mouth. And maybe I will get another shot to catch a pass.”
Maginnis isn’t relaxing when football is over.
He is heading into his third season as a starting defender for the lacrosse team.
He also went out for winter track last year after playing JV hoops for two seasons and scored a personal best 5-10 in the high jump and finished a team-high 38th overall, and fifth best in the area, in the state pentathlon in his first time competing.
“They just kind of threw me in and I liked it,” he said. “I tired the high jump because I am a pretty good leaper. I want to dunk. I can’t quite do it yet, but I will.”
Thanksgiving in September?
For lovers of Thanksgiving Day football — such as myself — this weekend’s football slate just doesn’t feel right, with many local teams taking on their Turkey Day foe in a late September matchup.
And it’s strange for many of the players as well.
“It’s definitely a very weird feeling,” said Andover High quad-captain Ben Hartford. “Usually when we face Central, it’s November and it’s chilly out. Now it’s just the middle of September. It’s really strange.”
But that is the reality in the newly realigned playoff system, which sees the Golden Warriors host Central Catholic, along with Pentucket (Triton), Methuen (Dracut), Whittier and Greater Lawrence (each other) and Georgetown (Manchester-Essex) playing their Turkey Day rivals.
Andover and Central have played on Thanksgiving since 1972, with the series tied 20-20-1. Two of the last three years (2010, 12) it has decided the MVC Division 1 title and a playoff berth. Pentucket leads their holiday series against the Vikings 23-13-1
“This really takes some getting used to,” said Central star D’Andre Drummond-Mayrie. “We are excited to play them again because we had a really tough loss last year. But it’s still weird to play them so early.”
Off and running
Methuen has opened the season 3-0 heading into tomorrow’s matchup with Dracut. This marks the Rangers’ best start since the 1998 season when they also won their first three on the way to going 8-3. Methuen won just three games each of the last two seasons.
For a video interview with Methuen’s Johnny Maginnis, along with video highlights, visit eagletribune.com/sports
Football twitter tracker
Want to follow the action from this weekend’s action? Eagle-Tribune reporters who will be live tweeting these games:
Central Catholic at Andover
Hector Longo (@MVcreature) and David Willis (@DWillisET)
North Reading at Newburyport
Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonCHN)
Methuen vs. Dracut
Hector Longo (@MVcreature)
Pentucket vs. Triton
David Willis (@DWillisET)
Brooks vs. Nobles
Mike McMahon @MikeMcMahonCHN
Sanborn at Monadnock, 7 p.m.
Haverhill at Lawrence, 7 p.m.
Georgetown at Manchester, 7 p.m.
Salem at Bedford, 7 p.m.
Central Catholic at Andover, 7 p.m.
North Reading at Newburyport, 7 p.m.
Tewksbury at North Andover, 7 p.m.
Whittier at Greater Lawrence, 10:30 a.m.
Triton at Pentucket, 1 p.m.
Timberlane at Dover, 1:30 p.m.
Dracut at Methuen, 2 p.m.
Nobles at Brooks, 2 p.m.
Phillips at Kent, 2:30 p.m.
Londonderry at Pinkerton, 6 p.m.
Windham at John Stark, 7 p.m.