SACO – Scott Thibeault hobbled on a wrenched left ankle until he could walk off the pain. Minutes later he was on the turf, grabbing at his right knee. A padded brace encircling his lower torso kept another pain at bay.

But when he was asked after the game how he felt, Thibeault described a much different hurt. Scarborough High lost to a very good Thornton Academy football team Saturday, further diminishing its hopes of reaching the Western Class A playoffs.

“I’m not very good,” said Thibeault. “We have a slim chance, but we have to win our last game. After all this team has been through, it would be nice to make the playoffs.”

Bruised and broken bodies are as much a part of football as Gatorade and eye black, and Scarborough has had its share. Unfortunately for second-year head coach Lance Johnson, the injury list included the running back who can’t be defined only by his speed and strength.

Thibeault has the gift of quickly seeing and sensing daylight and running to it. He scored the game’s first touchdown when he took a pitch from his quarterback and ran to the left, slowing for a second or two to see how his blocking set up.

Then he was gone, running 39 yards to the end zone. It was so effortless and more than timely. Thibeault had missed the previous three games with chipped vertebrae. Scarborough lost all three.

“Not being able to play was one of the hardest experiences of my life. Those were three big games: Bonny Eagle, Cheverus and Deering.”

Three big games because Scarborough had been labeled a contender after an 8-2 season that ended in the Western Maine semifinals last year. The team graduated 22 seniors but Thibeault, a former wide receiver and fullback before shifting to running back, was one of 12 veterans returning. He was named a captain.

In two of Scarborough’s first three games, he ran for 274 and 229 yards. He ran for over a hundred yards in the third game. High school football watchers put him on the short list of favorites for the Fitzpatrick Award.

Then came the hard hit and a searing pain in his back. He couldn’t tell me more quickly that he hadn’t felt that pain for three weeks. And that Saturday’s physical pain was gone before he knew it.

I couldn’t catch him glancing at the sideline and his coaches after rolling his ankle in the first half when the game’s outcome was up for grabs. At first, he couldn’t put much weight on his left foot.

“I couldn’t come out. My teammates needed me. I knew I’d be all right.”

When you watched him on the turf holding his right knee you thought he had carried the ball for the last time. Soon he was back on field standing next to his quarterback, waiting for the shotgun snap.

Ask him if he played at 100 percent or 50 percent or something in between and the answer is as elusive as his running.

He could play, he said. Nothing held him back except for the padded brace that felt like another 50 pounds of lead weight by the fourth quarter.

He could twist and turn as he sought open spaces, he said. Good to go.

Thibeault gained 95 yards Saturday.

If you’re a father or mother or doctor you wince at the psychological armor. If you’re an athlete, and especially a football player, you understand.

There wasn’t much spark left in Thibeault as he moved through the line during the customary handshake after Thornton Academy won, 28-14. Several Thornton players tapped his shoulder pads in tribute.

Minutes later he returned to the sideline to help pick up equipment. He grabbed a long aluminum pole with what appeared to be the Scarborough flag. A teammate asked if he could carry it for him. Thibeault shook his head. “I got it,” he said quietly.

He got it and he gets it. Scarborough plays Gorham next in the final weekend of the regular season and it’s must-win time.

He won’t miss it.

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

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