The annual Thanksgiving Day football game between Portland and Deering high schools has been moved to 4 p.m. Wednesday because of the forecast for frigid temperatures on Thursday morning.

This year’s game, the 107th in the holiday series, will be played at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

The decision was made after consultation with both school’s athletic directors, coaches, players, boosters and school physicians, according to a Portland Public Schools news release: “The extreme cold weather predicted for this Thursday makes it unsafe for the game to take place that day.”

The news release also stated, “city staff will ensure the stadium is free of snow” for the game. Restroom facilities will be open but the concession stand will be closed. Fans will be allowed to bring “their own snacks” into Fitzpatrick.

“I’m glad we get to play one more game, come out on our home field,” said Zack Elowitch, who set Portland’s single-season rushing record in Saturday’s Class A state final loss to Thornton and needs a little over 40 yards to reach 2,000 for the season. “We get a chance to end on a better note.”

The game was originally scheduled to be played at Deering High’s Memorial Field. The decision was made Monday that removing snow at Memorial could end up damaging the new artificial surface, so the game was shifted back to Fitzpatrick, its traditional home. Fitzpatrick’s field, bleachers and most of the walkways had been cleared from last Friday’s snowstorm to accommodate the state championship games on Saturday.

Both Portland and Deering used Fitzpatrick for practice on Monday.

Portland leads the series, 58-41-7. Deering won last season’s game, 22-20, snapping a four-game Bulldog win streak, in what turned out to be the last Deering game coached by Jason Jackson.

Jackson, Deering’s coach from 2015-2017, did not have his contract renewed.

For Deering first-year coach Rob Susi, Wednesday will mark the second time he’s been in charge of the Rams in the Thanksgiving series. Susi was Deering’s defensive coordinator in 2014 and was pressed into the interim head coaching role when Matt Riddell resigned the day before the game.

Deering senior Winston Dinizio is grateful for a final football game.

“This is my last year as a Ram and I get to put on this helmet a last time in a game and get to go out with my boys,” said Dinizio, a receiver and linebacker. “It’s been great bonding with them and it’s just one more time to go play with them.

“I kind of wanted it to be at our house, one last time on (Memorial Field) but it’s kind of been a tradition over here so we’re going to come over here and play hard.”

Regardless of which day the game was played, preparation was a challenge for both teams – for very different reasons.

Portland (9-2) will be just four days removed from its 49-14 loss to Thornton Academy. Portland also played this rivalry game on short rest after championship losses in 2015 and 2016.

“It’s a brutal challenge,” said Portland Coach Jim Hartman at Monday’s practice. “You’re emotionally drained, win or lose that game. If we’d won that game I don’t think you’d see anybody out here tonight. They’d be done. ‘What do you mean we have to play another game? We’re state champions.’ Now, if you lose, they’re emotionally drained from that loss – which they are – and now I’ve got to heal that loss before I even practice.”

Meanwhile, Deering (3-6) has been “averaging” two practices a week since Oct. 26, when it lost in the Class A South quarterfinal to Sanford, 42-21, according to Susi.

“It was a lot of new plays to try to keep kids interested,” he said.

Another complicating factor is that winter sports practices started Monday.

“I can’t tell (Deering senior basketball starter) Ben Onek he shouldn’t be at basketball practice. That’s horrible to have to ask kids to choose like that,” Susi said. “I feel really bad about that. But I also know this has been a huge tradition with Portland for forever.”

It is that century of history that gives the game significance, despite attendance falling significantly the past 10-15 years.

“Every year they talk about canceling the game but I like coming out and getting a chance to play against Deering because we don’t play them in the regular season anymore,” Elowitch said.

“I’m just happy we get to play them.”

Tickets will be available for purchase at the game for $5, or $2 for students.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveCCraig

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