Portland and Deering high schools will continue their century-old Thanksgiving football tradition for another year.

Before last year’s game, athletic directors at both schools said the Thanksgiving series may not be viable in the future, in large part because of dwindling attendance.

But on Monday, Deering’s Melanie Craig and Portland’s Rob O’Leary confirmed the football teams will meet in the 106th edition of the Thanksgiving Day game at Fitzpatrick Stadium. Kickoff will be at 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 23.

In addition to smaller crowds, the timing of the game conflicts with the start of the winter sports season, with practices starting the Monday before Thanksgiving.

The 2016 game drew an estimated crowd of 1,000 to Fitzpatrick Stadium – double the 2015 attendance – despite snowy, cold conditions. In 2015 ticket sales fell short of expenses. Portland, which played for the Class A championship five days earlier, defeated Deering, 41-0. Deering had not played in 25 days after losing in a regional quarterfinal.

Portland leads the Thanksgiving series 58-40-7 and has won four straight.

The Portland-Deering game is the only Thanksgiving Day high school football game in Maine. It started in 1911 and has been played every year since except 1920 when weather conditions made the field unplayable. Once the regular-season finale for both teams, it has been an exhibition game since 1967.

Large crowds were the norm for most of the series’ history. The 1959 game that determined the state championship reportedly drew 13,000 fans. As recently as 2002 and 2003 crowd sizes were estimated at 5,000 and 6,000.

Craig and O’Leary directed all questions about the future of the game to Xavier Botana, Portland’s superintendent of schools. Botana did not respond to phone and email messages left at his office Monday.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveCCraig

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