The Portland High football team shuffled into the Expo locker room Monday, two days after losing in the Class A state championship game. Coach Jim Hartman gave his players the option of not practicing, but the players would have none of that.

“We wanted to get right back at it,” said running back George Chaison-Lapine as the Bulldogs prepared for their annual Thanksgiving Day game against rival Deering.

Portland (10-1) lost to Thornton Academy 24-14 on Saturday, ending its bid to win the program’s first Gold Ball since 2002.

Deering (6-3) saw its playoff hopes end Nov. 6 with a one-point loss to Bonny Eagle in a Class A South semifinal. Since then the Rams have been able to rest up, reflect on their turnaround season and get ready for one more game.

Portland and Deering meet at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in the 104th edition of their Thanksgiving Day football game at Fitzpatrick Stadium. The Bulldogs lead the series, 56-40-7.

This is the first time since 1966 that the Thanksgiving Day Game is the only meeting of the season between Portland and Deering. They had played each other at least two times in a season – three when they met in the playoffs – every year since 1967. But realignment put the schools in opposite divisions before this season.

Deering quarterback Max Chabot, who has had an outstanding season and career, said the Rams will be prepared.

“Other than the line, Portland hasn’t had much turnover since last season,” said Chabot. “They run the same offense and defense.”

Dom Bernard, Deering’s talented two-way end, said the Rams have been gradually building momentum for the game.

“Since our last game we’ve been slowly turning the dial up,” he said. “We’ve been watching a lot of Portland film, looking for their tendencies. They’re coming off a heartbreaking loss, which is really hard. I hope it’s a good game. Having a good game against your cross-city rival, that’s what it’s all about.”

Portland has had to cram its game planning into a few days. Chaison-Lapine said the game’s tradition is enough to pump the players up and somewhat lessen the pain of the state title loss.

“We’re playing in one of the oldest high school rivalries in the country,” he said. “It’s an emotional game for everyone. We’ll be ready to play and want to put on a show for the fans.”

Chaison-Lapine noted another thing that seniors from both teams have dealt with since the game’s inception in 1911.

“There’s great potential that this will be the last time I step onto a football field,” he said.

To play on Thanksgiving is an opportunity only Portland and Deering have among Maine high school teams.

“It’s one more chance to play,” said Pat Viola, Deering running back/defensive back. “We just have to shake off our last loss.”

Deering finished with a 6-2 regular-season record to gain the No. 2 seed in Class A South and a first-round bye.

“After having 1-7 and 3-5 records the previous two years, getting a first-round bye was a tremendous boost,” said Chabot. “A lot of the seniors put in a lot of effort, as did the underclassmen.”

Deering Coach Jason Jackson, in his first season, said both teams having strong records brings added excitement.

“It’s always a pride game. The players on both sides know each other,” he said.

Portland has won the last two Thanksgiving Day games by comfortable margins. Before that it was a rivalry of big streaks. Deering won 10 of 11 from 2002 to 2012 and Portland won 11 straight from 1991 to 2001. That streak was broken with Deering’s 16-10 overtime win in 2002 over the state champions. The Rams then won the state title in 2003.

Arguably the biggest Thanksgiving Day Game was in 1959 with the state title on the line. Deering rallied in the second half to win 26-21 before a crowd estimated at 13,000. Dick Capp, a senior on that Deering team who went on to play at Boston College and in Super Bowl II with the Green Bay Packers, talked to the Rams on Wednesday.

“I remember when I was at Deering, my last classes of the day were biology and physics,” said Capp. “The classroom overlooked our practice field and around 1:30 I used to get excited about going to practice. You want to have that feeling every day, and in the games play every down like it’s your last.

“The Packers’ defense was known for its pursuit. You want to have great pursuit. I’ll be watching you guys in the game and looking for that.”