Legendary Thornton Academy football coach George Martin had good reason to be confident entering the 1938 season. During the previous two seasons, his Maroon and Gold squads had been undefeated and had claimed Southwestern Maine Conference championships. In his tenure, his program boasted an overall mark of 21-1-3.
When putting together his schedule for the 1938 campaign, Martin did the unthinkable -- booking two opponents in one day. On a Saturday late in October, Martin invited Fryeburg Academy to compete against his team in a matinee contest played at the Thornton Academy Athletic Field (now Rite Aid). Following that game, Thornton would face local rival St. Louis High School of Biddeford.
Given that daylight hours were shorter at that time of the year, Martin recognized that it was highly likely that the second half of the St. Louis contest would be affected by sundown. As there were no lighted fields in the area at the time, Thornton Academy officials and the City of Saco came up with a plan to light up the TA complex once the sun began to fall over the western horizon. The city permitted a number of fire trucks to be stationed at the Thornton athletic field and rigged each ladder (tall enough to fight a two-story blaze) with temporary lights. In addition, vehicles parked near the field added some additional illumination with their headlights.
The plan worked, and Thornton Academy played its doubleheader. (For the record, Thornton swept both Fryeburg and St. Louis.)
The 1938 TA football team went 9-1 and played two games on October 22.
A running back finds a hole for a big gain in 1938.
75 years later, night football returned to Saco at nearby Hill Stadium. When Thornton Academy opened Hill Stadium in 1980, it was not equipped with light poles, and for 33 years, the tradition of day football at Thornton continued unabated.
However, with the Hill Stadium renovation project incorporating lights for night play, the school agreed to host one night contest per year (usually at the beginning of the season). On September 20, 2013, over seven decades after George Martin's inspiration for a night game, Thornton Academy hosted Scarborough at Hill Stadium. The game included a pregame ceremony that featured 91-year-old Esther Anderson performing the ceremonial coin flip. Mrs. Anderson, the widow of 1938 TA team captain and all-state player Lloyd "Swede" Anderson, joined the Thornton and Scarborough team captains and officials at midfield. A photograph of her coin flip (as well as the ceremonial coin) are on display in the trophy case at Linnell Gymnasium.
Since that day, Thornton Academy has hosted four night contests. Thornton Academy sports special black uniforms with maroon and gold numerals and piping for those games, and the student section typically wears black as well. As a result, the annual night contest is frequently dubbed "The Black-Out Game".
The Trojans line up during the 2015 night game, sporting their special black uniforms.
The scores of previous night games at Hill Stadium are as follows:
September 20, 2013 - Thornton Academy 19, Scarborough 15
September 12, 2014 - Thornton Academy 73, Noble 0
September 4, 2015 - Thornton Academy 49, Sanford 0
September 16, 2016 - Thornton Academy 56, Deering 13
Fans cheer on the Trojans during a "Black-Out Game".
Join us tonight at Hill Stadium at 7pm to cheer on the Trojans as they battle the Deering Rams.