For the seniors, the Thanksgiving Day football game between Portland and Deering has a special meaning.

Besides being the last time they will suit up for the Bulldogs or Rams, for many it’s the last time they will play in a real football game. Most of them won’t play in college.

Ryan Rarn of Deering, who was injured Sept. 26 during a home game against Massabesic, hoped to be on the field Thursday morning for the 103rd playing of the annual game.

Rarn, who fractured a vertebra in his back, said his rehabilitation had gone well and he was just waiting for his doctor’s clearance to play.

But Rarn didn’t get the news he wanted. After practice Monday, a voice mail from his doctor said he wouldn’t be cleared to play.

“It was a shocker,” said Rarn, a center. “The doctor said I’m not ready. It would be too risky. It’s really disappointing.”

The Thanksgiving Day game was his only realistic chance of playing after the injury, but the fact he’ll remain sidelined doesn’t change a thing in terms of being a good teammate and a leader.

Those are two things that have been a constant with Rarn since he entered Deering. He’s stayed involved with the football program during his injury, attending nearly every practice, only missing when he had a doctor’s appointment.

Soon after learning he wouldn’t be able to play, Rarn began looking ahead to suiting up for the game and being on the sideline to encourage his teammates.

“It’s all right,” said Rarn. “I’m going to be able to suit up and be there to support the team. I’m just going to have to be more active helping everyone out.”

Rarn said Tuesday he planned to talk to athletic trainer Greg Tosi “to see what I can do” at practice. Contact was out.

“I won’t be wearing shoulder pads in practice but I think I can wear a helmet,” he said.

Rarn has shown an interest in becoming an athletic trainer and perhaps also do some coaching after college.

While doing his rehabilitation in the school’s training room, Rarn learned everything he could from Tosi, Deering’s longtime athletic trainer, not only about his injury but others.

“Ryan was interested in all that we did,” said Tosi. “He observed a lot. He’s always asking questions about different treatments and the reasons for it.”

Two weeks ago, Tosi sent a dozen students to a seminar about athletic training at the University of New England. They saw a cadaver and talked about athletic training as a profession.

“My dream is to go into athletic training,” said Rarn. “I would love to help athletes rehab injuries and be around sports.”

Rarn said he might apply to the University of Tampa and the University of Southern Maine. He said he has some other New England schools under consideration.

The other thing Rarn was able to do this season was help coach the junior varsity. Because he has such a good understanding of the offense, Rarn was allowed to call plays for home JV games.

“I was the offensive coordinator for the JV team,” said Rarn.

And what did he like to call for plays?

“We ran a lot of power sweeps and gap schemes,” said Rarn. “I called a few pass plays but I don’t know as much about the receivers as I do the assignments for the linemen and the backs.”

Rarn also ran the scout team for Deering. The scout team imitates the offense and defense of that week’s opponents so teams can better prepare for the next game. Rarn has been like another coach on the staff.

Rarn missed the first half of his junior year with a concussion. And now, as a senior, he’ll miss the last six games. He has helped his backup, Jake Latini, better learn how to play center. Rarn was known for his consistent snaps to quarterback Max Chabot in the shotgun.

“My high school football career has been a big roller coaster,” said Rarn.

A lacrosse player, Rarn is pretty confident he’ll be ready to play next spring. He plans to do a lot of stretching to get his back ready for the season.