The 99th Thanksgiving Day game will be played at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Fitzpatrick Stadium. Portland won 41-6 last year, ending a seven-game winning streak by Deering in the game.

Deering had light practices Monday and Tuesday. The Rams got back on the field Wednesday.

Coach Greg Stilphen said it was tough for the players and coaching staff to come back after Saturday’s 35-34 loss to Cheverus in the Western Class A final.

“We came within one point of playing in the state championship game,” said Stilphen. “We have to get ourselves back in focus. Physically we’re fine, we just have to get ready mentally. As the game gets closer, the anticipation will build.”

Deering and Portland haven’t seen each other since the first game of the season, back on Sept. 3. Deering drove the length of the field in the final minutes, scoring with 14 seconds remaining for a 21-14 victory.

“We’re introducing ourselves to Portland’s offense. Everyone’s offenses have changed a little bit. We’re doing what we have to do to get back into it,” said Stilphen.

The Bulldogs (2-6) started the season running the wildcat offense but switched to the I-formation midway through their schedule. Portland last played Oct. 23, losing 13-7 to South Portland in the Battle of the Bridge.

The Bulldogs took a week off after that game. They’ve been increasing their practice time since.

Portland was hurt by injuries this season, particularly those to Will Walsh, a fullback-defensive end, and Andrew Poston, a wide receiver-defensive back.

Walsh was going to be the team’s workhorse runner this season, while Poston would have been a target at wide receiver. It was hoped they would be able to play Thursday, but that won’t be the case.

Also, Caleb Kenney, has been contending with shoulder problems all season but has played well.

“It’s been a frustrating year with the injuries,” said Coach Mike Bailey. “We have good kids who have worked hard. We were 24 points from being 6-2 this season.”

Imadhi Zagon will be at tailback for Portland. He served a suspension the last two games of the regular season because he violated the school’s code of conduct. The Bulldogs will look to have success with quarterback Matt McInnis throwing and with Zagon running.

“The first game with Deering was a great game,” said Bailey. “They had to drive the field to beat us. Hopefully we’ll be able to put something together on Thursday.”

Portland has 54 wins on Thanksgiving; Deering has 37. They have been seven ties in the holiday series that began in 1911. They didn’t play in 1920 because of poor weather.

This will be Bailey’s 25th Thanksgiving Day game as a head coach. He has a 16-8 record.

IF SATURDAY’S Class A state championship game can come close to the excitement of the Cheverus-Deering Western Maine final, fans will have gotten their money’s worth for a second consecutive week.

With both Cheverus and Bangor favoring the run over the pass, they may be hard-pressed to create a second straight Saturday of thrills like the Rams and Stags did.

Deering has a wide-open offense. When Cheverus took a 29-6 lead with more than 10 minutes left in the first half, the game could have gone one of two ways — Cheverus continuing its dominance and winning big over the Rams for the second time this season, or Deering finding its offensive rhythm. As more than 4,000 fans found out, Deering found its offensive rhythm.

The Stags, trailing 34-29, got the ball with 7:30 remaining and drove 70 yards, eating up all but 30 seconds, which proved key because it gave Deering less time to come down the field.

If Deering had more time on the clock, it might have been able to get into the end zone or at the very least, gotten closer for its field-goal attempt.

Cheverus Coach John Wolfgram said the personal foul and clipping penalties called against his team on its winning drive actually proved a help in the end.

“It bled more time off the clock,” he said.

THE DEERING and Portland athletic departments will be helping the Salvation Army on Thursday morning with the “Food For The Holidays Drive.” Both schools will be collecting non-perishable food items at the gates.

THE ANNUAL ALUMNI and Friends Sports Fundraising Dance will be held Nov. 27 at the Italian Heritage Center in Portland from 8 p.m. to midnight. Proceeds from the dance help the sports programs at Deering and Portland. Anyone 21 years and older is welcome. Tickets are $15 per person. Checks should be made payable to the Deering-Portland Dance.

The group Color Blind will perform.

Tables for six, eight and 10 are available. To purchase tickets, call Lisa Sprague at 797-6803 or Melissa Green at 797-9530, or e-mail Green at [email protected]

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at:

[email protected]