The Thornton Academy Athletic Hall of Fame Past Recipients:
Fred Stackpole ‘56
The mid 1950’s were thrilling times at Thornton Academy.The football team was in the midst of posting a 25-game win streak from 1953 to 1955, including two undefeated seasons that culminated in State Championships in 1954 and 1955.
As football insiders know, the quality of the offensive line play is one of the most crucial pieces to building a championship contender.Anchoring the Maroon and Gold line during those undefeated seasons was Fred Stackpole.As an offensive guard Stackpole was named to the All-Southwest Conference team and the All-Maine Schoolboy team in both 1954 and 1955.
After graduation, he continued the undefeated football habit in a prep year at Deerfield Academy.Moving into the college ranks at the University of Connecticut, Stackpole was named as an All-Yankee Conference offensive guard in 1960 and 1961, captaining the 1961 Huskie team.
Fred Stackpole’s exploits in football are not his only claim to athletic fame.As a track and field competitor he excelled in throwing events.He established multiple records in the discus, including the Class M record set in 1954 with a throw of 135’ 6”.In 1955, he established a York County record of 140’ 3” and a Thornton Academy school record of 145’ 8”.He also established a college-weight discus record at Deerfield Academy with a throw of 125’ 9’ and added to his Deerfield resume with a shot put record of 50’ 1’.
Fred was a leader outside of the athletic realm as well, serving as his class president during all four years at Thornton Academy.
Arthur Bishop ‘48
Like many other young men of “The Greatest Generation”, Arthur Bishop, Jr.of Saco, Maine left the safety of home to serve his country in World War II.Several credits short of a diploma, he nevertheless left high school early to join a number of his classmates and other schoolboys throughout the southern Maine area to join in the war effort, where he served for two years in the United States Navy.
A star athlete at Thornton Academy, Bishop played football for the legendary George Martin and was part of one of the most successful eras in the program’s long history.He joined fellow Thornton Academy Athletic Hall of Famer Joe Regina on an undefeated state championship team of 1941.Art also excelled in basketball and averaged 7.6 points per game for the 1943-1944 Maroon and Gold team that won the York County Championship.Art scored a career high 20 points against the Saco Calvary team (stationed at the local armory) and was the high scorer for Thornton in its York County quarterfinal victory over Kennebunkport.At the time that he left Saco for the service, Bishop was the 19th leading scorer in the history of the school.Art also played baseball for Ollie Emmanuelson for the two seasons prior to the sport being suspended due to the war effort.
Upon his return to Saco after the war, Arthur Bishop reenrolled at Thornton Academy to complete his high school requirements.Older than many of his contemporaries in the school, Arthur still had a burning desire to compete for the Maroon and Gold.Recognizing the need to provide athletic opportunities at this unique time in the academy’s (and country’s) history, Athletic Director Harold “Bud’ White organized a basketball team consisting of World War II veterans.Although playing opportunities against undergraduate teams did not exist, White found competition for the team against area athletic clubs and adult teams affiliated with the textile mills along the Saco River.
For most members of the “Veterans” basketball team, this would mark the pinnacle of their athletic careers and represent one last opportunity to proudly wear the Maroon and Gold.In the case of Art Bishop, however, playing on this basketball team was a springboard into an outstanding athletic career.After graduating from Thornton Academy in 1948 at age 22, Bishop continued his education at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, where he distinguished himself in both football and baseball.He played football under Polar Bear head coach Adam Walsh, who had once starred at center for Notre Dame under Knute Rockne.The starting fullback for Bowdoin,Art earned All-New England and Little All-American selections during his career.He also played baseball for the Polar Bears, where his mentor was former Boston Red Sox pitching star Danny McFayden.A standout hurler and outfielder, Bishop was a State Series team all-star in baseball.He is generally considered to be one of the finest athletes ever to play at the Brunswick school and set a half dozen school baseball records.
Upon his graduation from Bowdoin with degrees in economics and history, Art turned down an offer to play in the Boston Red Sox organization and began a brief stint working in the textile industry as an East Coast representative.After the death of his wife Rosemary at the age of 35, Art decided to make a career change.He eventually settled in Brunswick and commenced a long and successful career as a history teacher and coach at Brunswick High School from 1964-1987, where he paid forward the lessons he learned both at Thornton and at Bowdoin.He served for twenty years as the Dragons baseball coach.
Upon his retirement, he spent significant time following the athletic pursuits of his grandsons and was a fixture at football, hockey, and baseball games in the central Maine region.Art was inducted into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002 and passed away in Waterville in 2010.As his son Brad (who is currently the head football coach at Messalonskee High School in Oakland) noted, “He was a child of the Depression and World War II, very independent, stubborn and tough.He fought to the end.”A scholarship in his name is given to a graduate of Brunswick High School, where he spent so many years of his life.Arthur was buried in his native Saco at the Laurel Hill Cemetery.
“Veterans” Basketball Team of ‘46-’47
During World War II, it was not uncommon for high school age boys to enlist in the armed services while still undergraduates.Fueled by patriotism and influenced by the national sentiment of the day, they left behind their families and joined the war effort in one of the branches of the services.Many of them saw combat in some of the harshest terrain in both the European Theater and the South Pacific.
By the time that these young men returned to their native Saco in the months following the Japanese surrender, they were no longer teenagers in the strictest sense of the word.Hardened by the experience of war and older than many of their schoolmates, they had left a great deal of their innocence behind on the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific.Nevertheless, many of them returned to school to complete their high school education and to prepare for the careers that lay ahead during peacetime.
The World War II veterans who continued their studies at Thornton Academy were significantly older than their classmates and no longer eligible to participate in interscholastic sports for the Maroon and Gold.Harold “Bud” White, who served as Thornton’s athletic director in the late 1940’s, conceived the idea of organizing a program to offer these local heroes an opportunity to represent the Academy on athletic teams while competing against their age peers.
The result was Thornton Academy’s first and only “Veterans” basketball team, which competed in the 1946-1947 winter season.Ten Thornton Academy students formed the nucleus for the “Vets” during that winter and comprised one of the most unique teams assembled in the history of the school.Joining Bishop on the “Veterans” basketball quintet were:future Thornton Academy Hall of Fame inductee Fred Arno, Freddy Blow, Bob Coleman, team manager Robert Dyer, Ray Corbeil, Francis Lamontagne, Dick Lester, Moses Nelson, and Jim Paraskevas.The team was prominently featured in the 1947 Tripod.
Athletic Director White arranged for a modest five-game schedule against local boys clubs and teams made up of workers from the Saco-Lowell textile mills that formed the basis of the local economy.The Maroon and Gold enjoyed immediate success on the court in this novel program, winning four of the five games on their schedule and losing the fifth contest by a razor-thin margin of one point.The scores:
Vets 43, Boys Club 28
Vets 43, Boys Club 35
Vets 52, Saco-Lowell 38
St. James 43, Vets 42
Vets 55, Lucky Strikers 48
The story of the Thornton Academy “Veterans Basketball Team” is a proud chapter in the 125-year history of Thornton Academy athletics.Although only a one-year experiment designed to offer athletic competition for the school’s oldest students, the program is representative of the innovative tradition that has long characterized Thornton Academy athletics.The vision of “Bud” White to serve the war veterans was predicated on a goal of affording opportunities to all students who have a desire to compete.
Sandra Brochu Bilodeau ‘89
Sandy Brochu Bilodeau played multiple sports while a student at Thornton Academy.Sandy played field hockey, softball, and basketball, and was also a member of the indoor and outdoor track & field teams.In 1988, Sandy was the outdoor track & field state champion in the javelin and later named to the Southwestern Maine Girls Outdoor Track and Field All-Star Team.Sandy went on to score valuable points in the 1989 indoor track & field team’s state championship.She medaled in both the shot put and the long jump, helping her team win the meet by a single point.
Coach Mark DeFrancesco reflected on Sandy as an athlete and stated, “In my thirty years of coaching, Sandy was one of the most dedicated athletes regarding her desire to work on individual skills on her own time. Sandy's approach to her individual skills was masterful. Her thirst to improve, whether it be 5 feet in the javelin, 1 inch in the long jump, or a couple tenths of a second in the hurdles, was enormous.”
Although Sandy was an accomplished track & field athlete, she was best known for her efforts on the field hockey field. During her junior year, she was named to the Southwestern Maine Activities Association Field Hockey All-Star Second Team (or honorable mention).Her 1988 team was crowned the regular-season SMAA champion, capping an undefeated 14-0 regular season.Next, Sandy would lead the Golden Trojans to a 3-0 win versus Westbrook in the quarterfinals of the Western Maine Class A tournament where she scored two of her team’s goals on penalty corners.TA then went on to beat Sanford 1-0 in the semi-finals.Sandy and her team then lost a heartbreaker, 3-4, to Bonny Eagle in a 2.5-hour overtime thriller in the Western Maine Final after the game had been suspended at halftime and replayed two days later due to heavy rain.For her efforts, Sandy was named to the Telegram All-State Field Hockey Second Team.
Upon graduation in 1989, Sandy went on to Northeastern University and played Division I field hockey. Sandy had a successful career as a Huskie where she led her 1992 team in goals scored (10), was named to the 1992 North Atlantic Conference Championship All-Tournament Team, made First Team All-Conference, was selected for the National Field Hockey Coaches Association All-Region First Team and then capped her career as the North Atlantic Conference’s and Northeastern University’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Derrick Martin ‘92
On one of the first school days of Derrick Martin’s sophomore year, he asked Coach George Mendros if it was too late to join the cross-country team.George assured him that it was not too late and that he could show up for practice later that day.George also casually mentioned to Coach Paul Mondor that Derrick might be a decent addition to the squad.Three days later, Derrick ran his first race, a junior varsity contest at Edward Little High School, a race that he ended up winning by over a full minute.After questioning why Derrick didn’t run in the varsity race, the Edward Little coach was informed that this only was Derrick’s fourth day of running.It could be said that Coach Mendros and Coach Mondor may have underestimated Derrick’s abilities at the start of his high school running career.
Derrick’s dominant performance at Edward Little was not beginner’s luck.Derrick ran his first varsity race just a week later, finishing eighth in a meet that featured eventual state champions Cheverus High School.His cross-country career remained successful throughout his tenure here at Thornton Academy, highlighted by three straight appearances in the state meet and an 11th place finish his senior year.
On the track is where Derrick truly shined.Deciding to try indoor track his sophomore year instead of playing basketball as he had his freshman year, he found his place in the 1000 yard run, finishing fourth in the league championship and then finishing third in the state meet.
In his junior year, Derrick went on to win the 1000 in both the league and state championship meets.After the indoor season Derrick decided to switch from baseball to outdoor track.He won the 800 meter dash in the state championship meet and also ran on the championship 4 x 400 relay team.
After the accomplishments he achieved as a junior, some might have thought that it would be hard to improve as a senior, but those doubters would be wrong.Derrick again won the 1000 yard run in both the league and state championship meets and, in doing so, ran the second fastest time in the history of the league in that event.
In the spring of his senior year, Derrick saved his best for last as he again won the 800 meter race in the state meet, setting the school record and also anchoring both the 4 x 400 and 4 x 100 relay state championship teams.
Craig Thibeau ‘87
Leadership and mental toughness are attributes of any great athlete.These two characteristics can be used to describe Craig Thibeau and his career at Thornton Academy.
A captain of the football team his senior year, Craig’s role was to be a leader in the trenches on both sides of the ball.While highlight reel touchdowns were displayed by his teammates Bob Giroux, David Robinson and others, Craig blocked and protected in order to assure success for his team.His hard work paid off.In 1986, Craig’s senior season, the Thornton Academy football team capped an undefeated season by winning the gold ball against Bangor on the campus of Bowdoin College in Brunswick.Craig led a group of lineman who, offensively, opened gaping holes for running backs and provided ample time for the quarterback.On the defensive side of the ball, Craig was part of a wall of defenders that stymied opposing offenses in all ten of its victories.
For his efforts, Craig Thibeau was recognized as a first team tackle on the 1986 all-state team.
Craig’s athletic efforts were not limited to the football field.Craig represented the maroon and gold on the basketball court as well, playing in all four of his years here at Thornton Academy and was named team captain his senior season.In the spring, Craig showed his ability in track and field by placing 4th and 2nd in the javelin his junior and senior years, respectively, at the state championship meet.
Following graduation, Craig continued his education at the University of Maine in Orono where he again put his leadership skills on the football field to use.Craig lettered all four years at UMaine, playing both outside linebacker and defensive end under three different head coaches there – Tim Murphy, Tom Lichtenberg, and Kirk Ferentz.Craig played on the 1987 team and was a starter on the 1989 team, both of which won the Yankee Conference Championship.
Mari Warner, Class of 1977
When longtime Saco residents hear the name “Warner,” they are likely to think of basketball. Mari Warner, Class of 1977, is well known for her career on the hardwood at Thornton Academy. Mari was a pioneer for female basketball players in the state as she was just one of 14 athletes named to the first ever Bangor Daily News All-Maine Schoolgirl Basketball Team in 1977. In addition, Mari was named a 1976-1977 Southwestern Maine Activities Association Girls Basketball First Team All Star. Recently, the Bangor Daily News published an article saying that the 1977 All-Maine team helped set the tone for 40 years of girls’ basketball growth, and Mari was an integral part of that progress.
During Mari’s career at Thornton Academy, her teams finished as Western Maine Class A Runners-up on two occasions (1974-1975 and 1976-1977) and were the number one seed during her sophomore year, which was the very first Maine Principal’s Association girls tournament. Mary led TA in scoring with17 points in the 1977 Western Maine Class A championship game against South Portland High School at the Augusta Civic Center.
Phil Curtis, a 2008 inductee into the Thornton Academy Athletic Hall of Fame and Mari’s high school basketball coach, refers to her as the mainstay of the team her junior and senior years. According to Coach Curtis, “Mari was the center on the team. She was counted on to be a big-time scorer and rebounder for us. She also played defensively in the middle of the court. Mari was somebody who we counted on in the clutch.” Coach Curtis continues to praise Mari today, saying, “She is the epitome of a role model for any girl going through high school or college.”
Mari is a 1981 graduate of the University of Maine, where she played basketball under Coach Eilene Fox and served as a team captain of the 1980-1981 team. Her University of Maine teams were 58-24 during her four years and were Maine Association of Intercollegiate Women’s Athletics (MAIWA) champions in 1978-1979, 1979-1980, and 1980-1981.
Following graduation from the University of Maine, Mari went on to earn a master’s degree in education from the University of Albany (then known as SUNY-Albany) where she became a graduate assistant coach for basketball and soccer.
Coach Warner became the youngest college coach in the country, taking over at Albany in 1982 and serving as the head basketball coach until 2002. Her teams posted an overall record of 299-203. Her 299 coaching wins ranks first in the history of the University of Albany women’s basketball program. During her time at SUNY-Albany, the 1986 team reached the Elite Eight in the NCAA Division III tournament and she coached three University of Albany teams that won 20 games in a season (1984-1985, 1985-1986, and 1991-1992). Later, Coach Warner oversaw the University of Albany’s rise to the ranks of Division I and coached at that level for three years. Her achievements for the University were recognized in 2014 as she was inducted into the University of Albany Athletic Hall of Fame.
Bob Giroux, Class of 1987
“Obviously to stop Thornton, you’ve got to stop Giroux.” Those were the sentiments expressed by Biddeford Tiger coach Mike Landry prior to the Battle of the Bridge, but these words well could have been the mantra for all of Class A football in the fall of 1986. Bob Giroux, an all-conference linebacker as a junior, terrorized opponents during his senior campaign and led Thornton Academy to an undefeated season, culminating in a 28-6 Class A state championship over the Bangor Rams. For the season, fullback Giroux compiled 967 yards rushing on 181 carries, despite missing two games to injury.
In the state championship game Giroux rushed for 137 yards and scored three touchdowns. He also played a part in the defensive play that turned the game around. After TA took a 14-0 lead, Bangor engineered a 14-play drive that covered 70 yards, bringing the ball inside the Trojan 5 yard line. On 4th and goal, with the Bangor fullback stymied by defensive tackle Craig Thibeau, linebacker Giroux finished the play with a bruising hit for a loss, thwarting Bangor’s effort to climb back into the game. The 28-6 victory ended a 24-year title drought and elevated Thornton Academy back to the apex of Maine high school football.
Post-season accolades were in order. Giroux repeated as All-state team selection. Bob was named to the 1986 National High School Football All-America team, an award given by the National High School Athletic Association.
The James J. Fitzpatrick Award, initiated in 1971, is awarded annually to the outstanding player in Maine Class A football. Beyond football ability, the award’s criteria include sportsmanship, character, leadership and teamwork, as well as academic achievement. The trophy, known as the Heisman of Maine high school football, is a handsome 20 pound, 13 inch high statuette cast in solid bronze of a football player in a stance. Coaches and sportswriters throughout the state cast votes. In January of 1987 Bob Giroux was named the 16th winner of the prestigious award, the first winner from Thornton Academy.
John Waterman, Class of 1918 * Golden Era Award
Athletics have long been an integral part of what makes Thornton Academy a special place. Even a century ago, there were many athletes who made a mark on history for the Maroon and Gold. Today, we are proud to recognize one such athlete.
John Waterman was a one-man track team. During his time representing the Maroon and Gold, he led his school to numerous victories and set various school records.
1917 was a dominant year for Waterman. At an interclass indoor track meet that year, John scored 23 ½ points on his own, besting the effort of the entire sophomore class. In that meet, John had four first place finishes, two seconds and two fourth place finishes.
During a seven team meet that same year, Waterman led the TA squad to a blowout victory. John competed in six of the nine events that day, winning three of them and placing second and third in the other three events. He led TA to a total of 57 points for the day, a significant winning margin over the second place team that earned only 17 points.
Waterman was a versatile athlete, competing and winning in running, throwing and jumping events. In the 1917 Bowdoin Interscholastic Meet, John prevailed in his two strongest events – the 220-yard dash and the 440-yard run and set school records in each. His time of 23 seconds in the 220-yard dash would be strong enough to place even among today’s high school athletes.
Jeff Griffith, Class of 1961
Throughout the 125-year history of Thornton Academy athletics, countless numbers of young men and women have made their marks upon the program. In some cases, it is a single moment – a game-winning goal, a memorable run, or a record-breaking performance – that defines the individual and his or her career. In other cases, it is an overall body of work that distinguishes a student-athlete from his or her peers.
In the case of Jeff Griffith of the Thornton Academy Class of 1961, both descriptors apply. During his distinguished athletic career in Saco, Jeff performed at a high level in two sports – basketball and baseball – that earned him the well-deserved reputation of being one of the elite performers in the southern Maine region. He recorded numbers that placed him among the most accomplished student-athletes in the history of Thornton Academy. At the same time, he was responsible for one of the most dramatic moments in the school’s athletic history and created a lasting memory that remains part of the school’s athletic lore.
Jeff Griffith was a three-year player for the Thornton Academy varsity baseball team and earned a starting position behind the plate for Coach Neil Serpico’s Maroon and Gold team. Catching was a concern for the program as Thornton Academy Hall of Famer Bryce Roberts had graduated the previous year, but Jeff quickly established himself as a productive performer for Thornton. He proved to be a steady, reliable defensive catcher who also was competent with the bat. Coach Serpico placed him in the fifth spot in the batting order, and the youngster stepped into the spotlight in the first home game of the season by singling in the go-ahead run in the 8th inning to help his team defeat Cheverus by an 8-7 score. He recorded three-hit games against traditional Telegram League powers Portland and Cheverus and blasted his first career high school home run off legendary Cheverus pitcher Dick Joyce to stake Thornton to an early lead in an eventual 5-0 victory. His efforts helped the Maroon and Gold to an eventual record of 12-6 and a runner-up finish in the conference.
In 1960 Jeff began a two-year run of hitting consistency and productivity that few have achieved in Thornton Academy baseball history. He hit .400 to claim the coveted Telegram League batting championship, one of only nine TA players to accomplish this feat, and was selected as a first-team all-conference catcher. During his senior season of 1961, he improved his mark at the plate to .409, finishing second to Dick Dion of St. Louis High School in the Telegram League batting race. Jeff hit one homer and drove in fifteen runs during the campaign and stole a conference-leading 15 bases to win a second consecutive berth on the Telegram League All-Star Team. During his three years in the Thornton Academy baseball program, Jeff had a career batting average of .369.
Jeff was also a stalwart on the basketball court who was a key performer for Thornton Hall of Fame coach Jim McGaffin. Jeff’s basketball career came at a time when the school was in the process of building Linnell Gymnasium to replace the tiny Emery Gymnasium facility, and as a result, the school played all of its games at off-campus venues. As a sophomore, Jeff appeared in ten varsity games, but was a role player on a team that featured veterans Danny Donovan and Dave Hanson. He made his varsity debut on January 16, 1959 at the Saco Armory and scored 12 points against Stephens High School of Rumford. For the season, he averaged a modest 6.2 points per game, but gained valuable experience at the varsity level.
During Jeff’s junior season, he played a major part in helping Thornton Academy win seventeen of its 21 contests and finish as Western Maine Class LL runner-up. The “sixth man” for Coach McGaffin’s squad, Jeff scored in double figures in eight contests during the season, including a season-high total of 25 points in TA’s 62-51 victory in February. His 10.4-point per game average placed him among the team leaders and paved the way for a memorable senior campaign.
The 1960-1961 Thornton Academy boys basketball team had graduated several key players from the previous season’s regional runner-up squad, and Jeff Griffith was its clearly established leader and “go to” player. The team played .500 basketball throughout most of the season, and a playoff berth remained in question as the season moved into February. The captain of the Maroon and Gold, Jeff carried the team’s offensive load and sported a 20+-point average throughout most of the campaign. He established a new career high of 33 points in an important 63-58 victory over St. Louis on February 1 in Buxton, but Thornton Academy’s playoff aspirations depended upon the final game of the season, a “home” game in Buxton against second-seeded Cheverus.
The outcome of the Cheverus game – and the postseason – seemed in jeopardy as the Stags held a fourteen-point lead with only four minutes remaining in the contest. However, Jeff seized the moment and put the team on his shoulders, scoring eighteen points in a short amount of time to bring the team back to within a basket. When Jeff’s teammate Dick Hellige stole an errant Cheverus pass in the closing moments, Coach McGaffin called a timeout to design a play. Predictably, it was designed for Jeff, who drilled a jump shot off a bounce pass from David McNabb for the equalizer. After the teams remained tied after one overtime, the game came down to a unique rule of that time, a sudden-victory tiebreaker. Early in the stanza, Jeff drilled a twenty-foot jump shot to break the tie and give TA a dramatic 71-69 victory. In addition to achieving a new career high of 35 points, Jeff, in the words of Portland Press Herald writer Dick Doyle, enjoyed the moment all athletes dream of. “The TA leader,” Doyle wrote, “was literally mobbed and swarmed under by a host of admirers at the end of sudden death, and then carried around the court before being placed in the safety of the stage.”
Thornton’s season ended a week later in the tournament against top-seeded Morse, but Jeff’s efforts during the season and on that February evening in Buxton were memorable. He ended his Thornton career with 599 points, and at the time of his graduation was second in overall scoring to Bob Tims ’53 (616). For his prowess on the baseball diamond and basketball court and for a memorable miracle moment that propelled his team to a postseason berth, Jeff Griffith established himself as one of the greatest student-athletes in Thornton Academy history.
Mike Babcock, Class of 1990
Mike Babcock used a combination of speed and power to make his mark on athletics at Thornton Academy. Mike is one of the few TA athletes who was instrumental in winning state championships in two different sports.
Mike played varsity football his sophomore, junior and senior years, and was the starting tailback as a junior and a senior. With his blazing speed, Mike was always a touchdown waiting to happen and he was especially dangerous when TA ran the option. In the 1988 regional semifinal game against Lewiston, TA had the ball just outside midfield. Running an option play at a crucial point in the game, the ball ended up in Mike’s capable hands. After escaping the outside defender, Mike turned it upfield and sprinted to the end zone for a highlight reel touchdown. Following that victory in the regional game, TA went on to win the following week’s state championship game, earning the gold ball for the second time in three years.
Mike was also a standout in spring track and field, primarily running the 100 and 200 meter dashes and the 4 x 100 meter relay. He also ran the 400 meter, the 4 x 400 meter relay and threw the javelin. Mike scored in the state meet in the 100 and 200 meter dashes and 4 x 100 relay his sophomore and junior years.
It was in Mike’s senior year that his excellence on the track was really showcased. In the 1990 state meet, he ran well in his first two events, finishing third in the 100 meter dash and anchoring the 4 x 100 meter relay to another third place finish. Mike then took it up a notch in his last two events and won the 200 meter dash to move TA closer to first place Brunswick, who had led the meet from almost the very beginning. Going into the meet’s final event, the 4 x 400 meter relay, TA still trailed Brunswick. Mike, the relay team’s lead leg, gave TA a commanding lead right out of the blocks. In fact, Mike’s lead leg was so dominant, the Brunswick coach commented that he felt his team was a little demoralized in seeing the big lead that TA had. The lead in the relay was never threatened and at the end TA had outscored Brunswick 69 to 66 to win its first track championship in 18 years and its first ever in Class A.
Mike used his athletic ability to represent the maroon and gold on the biggest athletic stages in the State of Maine. His success both individually and as part of a team are indications of the commitment to excellence that Mike had during his time at Thornton Academy.
1991-1992 Boy Basketball Team * Great Moment Award
Expectations were high for the boys basketball team heading into the 1991-1992 season. Thornton Academy had not been represented in the post-season playoff tournament in 20 years – not since TA Hall of Famers Bob Warner and Jeddy Newman led the charge - but the team and its head coach, Marc Gagne, looked to put an end to that slump.
Halfway through the season, the team stood with a record of 6-3 and controlled its own destiny. The second half of the season would see the return from injury of point guard Craig Agreste, an added weapon in the pursuit of the team’s goal. The team was focused, practiced hard, and did not shy away from the expectations. That determination proved effective as, on a Tuesday night in February at Linnell Gymnasium, the Trojans pulled off an overtime victory against Lewiston to secure much needed Heal Points, inching them closer to a berth in the postseason.
Next up for the Trojans was a scrappy Biddeford team that had already beaten Thornton twice that season. The third time did not prove to be a charm as Chris Cote lit up Linnell Gymnasium on his way to a 33 point performance, leading the Tigers to yet another victory over the Trojans. With two games remaining on the schedule, Thornton needed one win to assure a ticket to the dance.
That win would indeed come – this time on the road against a tough to beat Bonny Eagle team and, again, in overtime. The Trojans wrapped up the regular season with a final victory against Sanford. The maroon and gold finished the season with a record of 13-5, locking up the fifth seed in the final Heal Point standings.
As fate would have it, the first opponent after a 20 year playoff hiatus would be the fourth seeded Biddeford Tigers, the Trojans biggest rivals and a team that had the upper hand in three separate matchups earlier that season. The Trojans would want it no other way. Senior Jay Lowe was quoted as saying, “It might sound funny because they beat us three times (during the season), but we were glad we were playing them. We knew what they did, so we just had to worry about ourselves.” Using its clear size advantage, Thornton dominated in a 67-50 victory over its rival in a game played at the Cumberland County Civic Center. The Journal Tribune summed up the game as follows, “Using the combination of 6-feet, 5-inch Lowe and 6-feet, 4-inch Steve Xanthopoulos, Thornton got the ball inside. The pair responded with 48 points, 24 rebounds and 19 for 24 shooting from the field.”
Thornton Academy basketball was back, winning its first playoff appearance in 20 years.
The end of the road came in the next playoff game against a talented South Portland team, which eventually won the state championship in a five-overtime thriller against Bangor.
The Trojans finished its strongest season in years with a record of 14-6. Post-season accolades went to Coach Gagne, who was recognized as SMAA co-coach of the year; Jay Lowe and Steve Xanthopoulos who were picked for 2nd and 3rd team SMAA All-Star teams, respectively. Lowe and senior point guard Craig Agreste were also chosen to represent the Trojans in the SMAA Senior All-Star Game. The team as a whole was awarded with the sportsmanship award by the Maine Secondary School Principals Association.
The team consisted of seniors Craig Agreste, Jay Lowe, Troy Thibeault, Jon Littlefield, Stephen Sincyr, and Brent Raymond; juniors Matt LeBlanc, Steve Xanthopoulos, Todd Vance, Kirk Purvis and Jared McCrum; and sophomores Ryan Sommer and Keith Chute. The head coach was Marc Gagne and the assistant coach was Vince Emery.
1986 Girls Indoor Track & Field Team
In only its second year competing as a varsity sport, the 1986 girls' indoor track and field team captured the Class A state championship at the season-ending meet held on the campus of Bates College. The victory came on the heels of garnering the Southwestern meet title at the Portland Expo just the week before.
There was no letdown in the State meet for Coach Mark DeFrancesco’s crew as the Trojans tallied 64 total points, 10 more than second-place Bangor. Leading the way as she had done all year was Leslie Couture, who won three individual state titles that day, gaining 30 points for her team. It was, however, a true team effort. Points were scored by Karen Grant in the long jump, Sharon Hondel in the mile and the two-mile, Brenda Waycott in the 55-meter dash, Sheila Waycott in the 55-meter dash and the 300, Wendy Field in the shot put, Lori Roth in the 600, and both Catherine Tousignant and Karen Ross in the 1,000 meter run. The final, and championship clinching, points of the day came from the third place performance in the 800-meter relay by the team of Kristy Dydowicz, Brenda Waycott, Donna Raychard and Karen Grant.
Of the win, Coach DeFrancesco said, “Although track is an individual sport, these kids always kept the team aspect in mind and did what we asked of them.” DeFrancesco was also quick to acknowledge his assistant coach, Paul Korobkin, for his outstanding work with the team’s sprinters. The hours of preparation at the Saco Armory and in the halls of TA’s Science Building clearly paid off with incredible results. DeFrancesco also credited boys assistant coach John Morin for working with Wendy Field on the shot put.
Carroll Huntress, Class of 1942
A football coach who distinguished himself at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels, and later a successful business entrepreneur, Carroll Huntress developed and honed his leadership skills while growing up in Saco, Maine. A member of the Thornton Academy Class of 1942, Huntress participated in both football and outdoor track for the Maroon and Gold and was a member of the 1941 state championship football team coached by George Martin. His high school teams claimed three consecutive Southwestern Conference championships and had an overall record of 25-4-2.
Following his graduation from Thornton, Huntress, like many of his generation, enlisted in the military during the early months of the United States entry into World War II. He joined the United States Marine Corps and served in some of the most famous engagements in the Pacific Theater. For his valor, Huntress earned battle stars by participating in the Tarawa, Kwajalein, Saipan, and Okinawa campaigns and was discharged in 1945.
After World War II Huntress enrolled in the University of New Hampshire as a 21-year-old freshman, and he became one of the most celebrated Wildcat athletes of his era. The biology major was a three-sport letter winner in football, lacrosse, and outdoor track and field. A talented runner, Huntress played both halfback and fullback for UNH and competed in the Glass Bowl in Toledo, Ohio as a senior. He also served as a team captain and midfielder for the New Hampshire lacrosse squad and earned All-American honors in that sport.
Huntress enjoyed a successful stint as a high school teacher and coach after his graduation from New Hampshire. He was the head coach of football, basketball, and baseball at Mechanic Falls High School for one and a half years before going to Portland High School as an assistant football coach. After serving in this capacity for Portland for six seasons, Huntress became head coach of the Bulldogs in 1957. He led Portland to a Southwestern Conference championship in 1959 and three runner-up finishes.
Huntress moved to the college ranks in the 1960s and served as an assistant at the University of Maryland, where he coached the freshman team, was secretary of the Terrapin Club, and worked on the same staff as famed ABC football analyst Lee Corso. From 1965-1968 he was the head coach at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. In his first year with the Bison, his team was 6-3 and won the Middle Athletic Conference, the first league title in football ever earned by a Bucknell team. For his efforts, Huntress was named Pennsylvania College Coach of the Year.
The Saco native moved to Lexington, Kentucky for a short stint with the University of Kentucky before embarking on a nine-year career as an assistant coach with the New York Jets. A member of legendary coach Weeb Ewbanks’s staff, Huntress coached the Jets at the time that the franchise included future Pro Football Hall of Famers Joe Namath, Don Maynard, and John Riggins.
In 1982 Huntress left coaching and joined the Hunt Petroleum Corporation in Dallas. His work as an international representative for the firm and a trustee allowed him to travel throughout the world. His overseas connections paid dividends when in 1988, he became the founder and first commissioner of the International League of American Football, an organization with franchises throughout Europe and a predecessor of NFL Europe.
Huntress was inducted into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame in 1993, joining Hilary Mahaney and Brad Leach as the only Thornton Academy alumni to earn that honor. He and his wife, the former Elizabeth Curran, had three daughters, Judy, Sharon, and Pamela and son, Peter. Huntress passed away in 2015.
Erin Hatch, Class of 2003
Erin Hatch is one of the most decorated track and field athletes in Thornton Academy history. Her athletic resume is filled with honors and accomplishments that paint a picture of the amazing career she had while representing the Golden Trojans both on the track inside the Expo building in Portland as well as outside at Thornton Academy’s Hill Stadium.
Erin got a taste for winning during her sophomore year, capturing SMAA indoor championships in the junior hurdles and the high jump which was followed up by an outdoor state championship in the 100 meter hurdles.
More achievements awaited Erin her junior year. Again, she was the SMAA indoor champion in the hurdles and the high jump and was also crowned state champion in the 55 meter hurdles. In the spring outdoor season, Erin was the state champion in the 100 and 300 meter hurdles and was part of the winning 4 x 400 meter relay team.
Erin’s success continued her senior year as she defended her SMAA hurdle title and also won the indoor 300 meter championship. At the indoor state championship meet, Erin successfully defended her 55 meter hurdle title and also won the high jump with a 5’4” effort. The SMAA recognized Erin’s excellence by naming her to the all-star team in five individual events, one team event, and recognizing her with the Angie Abraham Award which is given to the Senior Division Athlete of the Year. At the outdoor state meet, Erin crossed the finish line first in the 100 meter hurdles for the third year in a row, and also defended her 300 meter hurdle title. Her individual efforts were instrumental in leading the maroon and gold to Class A state titles in both seasons. In 2003, the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram named Erin its female Athlete of the Year for the entire State of Maine.
Following her career at Thornton Academy, Erin brought her skills to the track in Orono as she ran for the University of Maine while she studied psychology. Erin would go on to earn a Master’s degree at Boston University and a doctorate degree in Psychology at Antioch University. Today, Dr. Erin Hatch is a sports psychologist, supporting athletes in their quest to achieve the best performance possible. Erin is newly married to her husband Matt and lives in Arundel.
Ernie Huot, Class of 1948
“To serve others and do good” is the essence of life according to the Greek philosopher Aristotle. Thornton Academy has been the recipient of this attitude of service from a long list of volunteers for many years. Volunteering is about giving time, energy and skills freely, but fundamentally, volunteering is all about relationships. It is ultimately about helping others. Volunteers exude energy and approach their tasks with enthusiasm and drive and use their positive spirit to motivate and inspire others.
Ernie Huot is one such volunteer whose efforts have had a profound impact on the athletic programs at Thornton Academy. For many years Ernie was the driving force behind the Sunday morning cleanup crew. On the day after home football games Ernie and his gang of Ron Tripp, Alec Garon, Milton Mitchell, Charlie Jenkins, Phil Laverriere and Kevin Adams and others took on the task of litter patrol at Hill Stadium, cleaning up after the throngs of fans who had come to support the maroon and gold.
Volunteers using their talents and passions can bring life into even the most mundane of tasks. In 1996, Thornton Academy added a new building housing an auditorium, a cafeteria and a library. Ernie led the effort to assemble the bookshelves in the Mary Weymouth Hyde Library.
Volunteers are trusted with an organization’s reputation and integrity is expected. Through the 1970s Ernie Huot was the captain of the football game chain crew. Officials and opposing coaches could trust the reliability and voracity of Thornton Academy sideline management. During the annual Battle of the Bridge game with Biddeford High School, Ernie conceived of the noble proposal of extending an invitation on the chain crew to a Biddeford representative, which would be reciprocated when the games were played at Waterhouse Field.
Ernie and his wife, Janet Garon Huot, are both Thornton Academy graduates. They serve as class agents representing the Class of 1948, assisting the Alumni Association in planning reunions and other events. They raised four children on Clark Street, just a stone's throw away from Thornton Academy.
Ernie wears maroon and gold on his sleeves, and has always been willing to roll up those sleeves and go to work. Ernie’s efforts for decades in quiet support of the athletic program at Thornton Academy have been remarkable and are much appreciated.
Gail Martin, Class of 1991 · Great Moment Award
Adherence to a set of rules is one of the hallmarks of the game of golf. The rules can often be strict and detrimental to one’s score. Because it is mostly self-regulated, golfers often overlook interpretations of the rules if it benefits their performance. Gail Martin was not one of those golfers.
In September 1990, Gail Martin was a senior playing in her fourth Maine State Girls Individual Golf Championship at the Bangor Municipal Golf Course. Of the 35 girls competing that day, Gail’s scorecard reflected the lowest round turned in. Clearly, her golf skills were championship caliber, but the real story is behind Gail’s integrity and honesty.
On the very first hole, Gail’s third shot found its way to the right side of the fairway, in the rough and just short of the green. Uncertain of whether the ball remained in bounds or not, Gail conferred with the two other girls in her group. None of the girls could locate a second out-of-bounds stake in order to make a determination. Believing that the ball rested legally in-bounds, Gail continued on with the hole and with her round and finished with a score of 89, four strokes ahead of the next best finisher.
Although she took many other strokes that day, the third shot on the first hole remained on her mind. After her round, Gail immediately sought out the course professional and took him to the spot of that shot to verify whether it was appropriate or not. Though obscured by the contour of the course, the professional was able to locate a second out-of-bounds marker and he and Gail determined that her ball had indeed fallen out-of-bounds – by one foot. Gail had taken an illegal shot. According to the rules of golf, the illegal shot disqualified her from the tournament and her score was disregarded. The championship was awarded to the next best competitor.
In newspaper and magazine articles describing the turn of events, Gail was unwavering that what she did was correct. “Golf is a game of honesty, so what’s the point in cheating on yourself”, Gail said. Her coach, Mike Verrier, commented that “Gail put the integrity of the sport ahead of winning the championship. We should admire that more than the state championship itself.”
Thornton Academy has a long history of championship performances, but more importantly, a history of sportsmanship and fair play. This has never been better displayed than by Gail Martin on a golf course in Bangor.
Paul Mondor, Class of 1968
Paul Mondor graduated from Thornton Academy in 1968 and played on the football and basketball teams. After graduating from Providence College and working in the city of Providence for a few years, he returned to Saco and started teaching at his alma mater in the fall of 1974. The head boys' spring track & field coach, Mark Dotter, recruited him to be his assistant coach that spring. In 1978, Paul took over as the head coach. Almost instantly a change came over the program. The team that had averaged less than 20 kids for the previous five seasons had nearly tripled in size two years later. Besides becoming one of the largest teams in the state the program quickly turned from an also-ran to one of the powers in the league and state. Paul coached undefeated regular season teams in 1981, '83, '85 and '86. In '86, TA won its first league championship.
Paul took over the boys’ cross-country team in the fall of 1984 and took over the girls’ team a few years later. Again the team’s size and wins total increased. Paul finished his varsity coaching with the following records: Boys spring track & field 81-18; boys' cross country 173-109; girls' cross-country 171-62. His overall varsity record was 425-189 for a combined winning percentage of .692.
Paul’s coaching was not limited to the varsity level as he also coached girls’ and boys’ freshman basketball, was an indoor track assistant and coached freshman baseball before he decided to give up coaching. However, he was lured back in the spring of 2007 and became an assistant outdoor track & field coach, coming full circle to the first coaching position he had at TA. His coaching was instrumental in the boy’s outdoor track & field team winning the 2008 state championship.
Besides his coaching duties at TA, Paul taught English, History, and later became a guidance counselor before becoming director of guidance. He also served as a class advisor and yearbook advisor during his more than 30 years of service to TA.
Walter Bradford, Class of 1899 · Golden Era Award
Early June in 1899 was heady times for Walter Bradford. Bradford was about to graduate as valedictorian for the Thornton Academy Class of 1899 and looking forward to matriculating at Harvard College in September. Just the previous week Walter had won the Maine Interscholastic Tennis Singles Championship at Bowdoin College. In fact, Walter had defended his singles title, having also won the championship a year earlier.
Walter Bradford was a four-year member of the football team from 1895 to 1898. It must be noted that TA’s football program started in 1893. But it was the sport of tennis where Bradford left his mark.
As a sophomore in 1897 Bradford was a member of the TA tennis team that entered the Maine Interscholastic Tournament at Bowdoin College. Inclement weather postponed the tourney to mid-June causing three of the six teams to withdraw. High winds and frequent showers seriously hindered the playing. According to the Official Lawn Tennis Bulletin the finals in singles proved to be the best match of the tournament. J. C. Small of Portland and Bradford of TA were both steady and played an accurate net game. Small won the title in four sets: 6-4, 8-6, 4-6, 6-3. The Bulletin credited Bradford for his well-played match with Small and also for his semi-final victory over A. H. Merrill of Portland which included winning two sets after trailing 5-2. In addition, in the doubles tournament Bradford teamed with Leavitt and reached the finals before bowing out to Merrill and Larrabee of Portland.
Clearly Bradford benefitted from the experience of tournament play early in his high school years. As a junior in 1898 he avenged his loss to Small the year before in four sets: 6-2, 6-3, 5-7, 6-0 to win the singles cup. Bradford and his partner Leavitt also avenged their loss by besting defending champs Merrill and Larrabee to capture the doubles title: 0-6, 7-5, 8-6, 7-5.
Bradford capped his high school career by repeating as singles champion in 1899. A few months later he entered Harvard Dental School. At the turn of the century a standard dental curriculum was a three-year program. Bradford graduated from Harvard in 1902 and practiced dentistry in Massachusetts for many years.
John Parola, Class of 1962
Growing up as a youngster in Saco, John Parola dreamed of donning the maroon and gold of Thornton Academy as a three-sport athlete in football, basketball, and baseball. Undersized for achieving excellence on the gridiron or the basketball court, John learned during his four years at Thornton that he could excel in cross country running and track and field. By the time that he graduated in 1962, he had established himself as one of the top distance performers not only of his era, but also in the history of the school’s athletic program.
A four-year member of the cross country squad, John served as team captain during his senior season. In 1960 he was third in the Class L state championship meet, the highest finish in this event by a Thornton Academy runner in school history. John also excelled in indoor and outdoor track and field and finished the indoor regular season in 1962 undefeated in both the mile run and 1000 yard run. John’s efforts resulted in his being awarded the George Vinall Trophy as the Southwestern Conference’s top distance runner.
John cites two individuals as being particularly influential in his development as a student-athlete at Thornton Academy. Cross country and track and field coach Dom DiBiase was a mentor to John who offered sage advice on both the physical and mental aspects of competition. “He really helped me a lot,” remembers John today. “He helped me to prepare and train.” Another strong role model was boys basketball coach and athletic director Jim McGaffin. The future Thornton Academy Athletic Hall of Fame inductee served as a father figure to John and gave him a position in the athletic office as an aide. “It gave me a place to be and a reason to be there,” John observes. McGaffin also served as an emotional rudder for the young Thornton athlete and always encouraged him to look to the future and set goals for himself. “I have to give him credit for keeping me moving forward” recalls John.
John’s memories of athletics at Thornton Academy include his teams’ preparation for the indoor season by utilizing the wooden track located near the current Thornton Academy Middle School. Running in the cold of winter, John and his teammates learned vital life lessons about the roles of preparation and dedication to individual and collective success. John’s commitment to the team over self was never so evident than during his senior year when he placed second in the mile run in the state championship meet. Qualifying for the New England championships held at Storrs, Connecticut on the same day as his prom, John nevertheless represented his school at this meet. In the process of winning his section, he posted his career best at this distance.
John attended the University of Maine at Presque Isle and graduated from that school in 1966. He took a position as a health and physical education instructor in the Dexter, Maine school system and remained in that community for thirty-six years. John served his school district in a variety of capacities, including varsity coaching positions in the sports of football, wrestling, and gymnastics. Later in his career he became an assistant principal and the athletic director at the middle school level and worked as an assistant coach in basketball and football. Throughout his tenure as an educator, serving others became part of his mantra and characterized his career. The lessons taught to him by DiBiase and McGaffin as a student at Thornton were paid forward to several generations of Dexter students.
Today John continues to give back to the people of his area through a variety of civic activities. He lives in Ripley and represents that community on the Board of Directors for Maine School Administrative District #46. In addition, he is a member of the Dexter Revitalization Committee.
Elizabeth Riley, Class of 2001
Liz Riley was a multi-sport standout at Thornton Academy.
Opponents on the soccer field seldom had reason to celebrate when Liz patrolled the goal for the maroon and gold in her signature black goalkeeper shirt, meant to instill fear in the opposition. Liz relished her role as the last line of defense and excelled at it. By the end of her girls soccer career, she held school records in number of games played (58), saves (489), and shutouts (18).
Accolades were numerous and impressive. Over the course of the 1999 and 2000 seasons, Liz was recognized as a 1st Team SMAA All-Star; Maine Coaches Association All Western Maine Class A, Western Maine All-State, and Honorable Mention All-State teams; SMAA All-Academic Team; SMAA Student-Athlete of the Year; and Maine Sunday Telegram All-State Team – Honorable Mention.
Liz also used her talents inside Linnell Gymnasium as a member of the girls basketball team, again earning accolades for her efforts. For both the 2000 and 2001 seasons, Liz earned honorable mention recognition as an SMAA All-Star. Following the 2001 season, Liz was named to the SMAA All-Academic Team and also participated in the post-season SMAA All-Star Game.
Cathy Paradis, Liz’s basketball coach, says that Liz was “a true competitor who pushed her and her teammates to become better players. She played hard and was a physically tough player to face. However, when the whistle blew or buzzer ended the game, Liz was a kind person with a great sense of humor. She perfectly embodied a great student-athlete.”
In the spring, Liz laced up her cleats and play softball for Thornton Academy all four years.
Liz was recognized by the school for her outstanding achievements and contributions to the school as it awarded her the coveted Jeddy Newman Scholar Athlete Award.
Following graduation from Thornton Academy, Liz went to Colby College in Waterville, Maine and played soccer and softball for four years and also served as captains for those teams. Notably, Liz worked for several years for the Portland Sea Dogs, working her way up to assistant general manager and director of sales and promotions. Liz continued to shine in that role and earned the 2013 nomination from the Eastern League of Professional Baseball Clubs for the Rawlings Woman Executive of the Year award.
Suzanne Picard Rondeau, Class of 1997
Sue Picard used her tenacious and winning attitude to leave an indelible mark at Thornton Academy as she starred in three athletic arenas.
In the fall, Sue was an SMAA 1st Team All-Star in girls soccer while playing for coach Scott Nason. She scored 16 career goals to go along with 9 assists, both of which rank among the top 15 in school history.
When the snow was flying, so was Sue’s jump shot. Sue was a standout on the basketball court, proficiently scoring despite Thornton’s opponents’ best defensive efforts. Sue teamed up with fellow guards Jennifer Martin and Carrie Trudeau to set a playoff record for number of three pointers in a game at the Civic Center and also played alongside her sister, Marie, forming an impressive sister-act for Coach Chris Nadeau. Coach Nadeau considers Sue “to have had the best work ethic of any player he coached and her talent was supplemented by her heart for the game”. Sue earned SMAA honorable mention accolades in 1995 and, in 1997, she was a 1st teamer on the SMAA All-Star Team and an honorable mention to the Bangor Daily News All State Team. To this day, Sue remains Thornton Academy’s only 1,000 point scorer in girls basketball history.
Sue’s athletic focus switched to the softball field in the spring, where she used her athletic and leadership skills to excel yet again. Sue anchored the team, both at the plate and in the field, and earned 2nd Team SMAA recognition in 1995 and 1st team recognition in 1997.
Following graduation from Thornton Academy in 1997, Sue took her athletic interests to Saint Joseph’s College where she again stood out among her peers. In 2009, Sue was inducted into the College’s Athletic Hall of Fame in recognition of her athletic efforts on the basketball court and on the softball field.
Sue continues to use her experience and zeal for athletics and developing leaders by staying active in coaching at Saint Joseph’s College. Sue is married to her husband Darrell and has one son, Sam.
Hugh Brownlee, Class of 1940
Hugh Brownlee donned the maroon and gold during the latter part of the decade of the 1930s. Playing football for coach George Martin, a TA Hall of Fame member himself, Brownlee anchored a stalwart defense that allowed its opponents an average of a mere 4 points per game in the 1938 season, Hugh’s junior year. The team completed a 9-1 campaign which was good enough for a runner-up finish in the conference.
The following year, with team captain Brownlee as one of only three returning lettermen, the grid squad leaned on its defense. TA shut out four of its first five opponents en route to a 9-1-1 record and a conference title. For his incredible efforts, individual accolades were well deserved – Brownlee was named as a 1st Team End on the Southwestern Conference All-Star Team in both his junior and senior seasons. In addition he was honored as a Portland Telegram All-State selection for his senior year 1939.
Brownlee contributed to the TA basketball program as well, earning letters in his junior and senior seasons. For his career Brownlee appeared in 28 games, scoring 66 points. He scored a career-high 8 points vs. South Portland on February 3, 1940 at TA’s Emery Gymnasium.
Hugh continued his education at the University of Maine in Orono, earning a degree through an accelerated program in December 1943. Hugh was married to Hope Brownlee for 64 years and, with her, raised five children.
Rodney Choroszy, Class of 1967 · Great Moments Award
Even in a team sport such as baseball, there are incredible and memorable individual efforts that stand out among the rest. One such effort was displayed by Rod Choroszy in the Spring of 1967.
The venue was Deering Oaks park in Portland the opponent was Cheverus High School, coached by Thornton Academy Athletic Hall of Famer Jeddy Newman. Choroszy got the nod from manager Phil Curtis, a 2008 inductee into the Thornton Academy Athletic Hall of Fame, to head to the mound that day. Coach Curtis would not be disappointed with his decision. The game was an instant classic and Choroszy, along with his devastating curveball, was its star. Over 11 innings, Rod struck out an eye-popping 22 batters and held Cheverus scoreless. Thornton Academy plated the only run of the game in the eleventh inning to secure a 1-0 victory.
Following his career at Thornton Academy, Choroszy pitched for Jack Butterfield at the University of Maine and graduated from there in 1972. Rod coached baseball for 16 successful seasons at South Portland High School and earned league coach of the year honors. Rod also coached baseball at Southern Maine Community College and Saint Joseph’s College before joining the staff at the University of Southern Maine in 2011. His distinguished contributions to the sport of baseball in Maine led to his induction into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame in July 2015.
According to Coach Curtis, Rod was versatile, an excellent hitter, and the team’s top pitcher his junior and senior years. Coach Curtis says that Rod loved baseball, was the first player on the field for each practice and played with unbridled enthusiasm.
Wendy Field Staples ’88
In only its second year of existence, the 1986 girls indoor track and field team earned both SMAA and state titles. Only a sophomore, Wendy Field was a significant contributor to the team, earning the crown as SMAA champion in the junior shot put. Her effort in the meet set a new record for this event. This early success in her career was just a precursor of things to come for Wendy.
In her senior year, Wendy’s tenacity and skill shined as she competed in track and field. During the indoor track season, Wendy and fellow classmate Lori Roth, captained the team to a strong 6-2 record. Wendy’s dominance led to her winning the Class A state championship in the shot put and a spot on the Maine Sunday Telegram All-State Indoor Track Team.
Despite these tremendous accolades, more was yet to come. Wendy excelled during the outdoor track season of 1988, winning the SMAA individual championship in both the shot put and the javelin while leading her team to a record of 10-2 and a finish as runners-up at the state track meet. Her season highlight came during a regular season meet when one of her throws in the javelin was the 15th best in the nation that year, and was the third best in Maine schoolgirl history at the time. Wendy was named to the SMAA all star team and was the recipient of the prestigious Gatorade Athlete of the Year award for girls spring track. Wendy was the first Thornton Academy Athlete to earn this honor.
Following her stellar career at Thornton Academy, Wendy went on to the University of Maine to compete in track and field.
Coach Bob Cote
“When one door closes, another door opens.” This old maxim could have been a headline in the sports pages of the Biddeford-Saco Journal in June of 1970. The closing of parochial St. Louis High School in Biddeford regretfully ended a longstanding spirited rivalry with Thornton Academy, but it created a new chapter of opportunity when Bob Cote was appointed as the head football coach for the Maroon and Gold.
At St. Louis, Bob’s Eagle teams won 92, lost 24 and tied 3 while capturing state titles in 1961, 1964 and 1966. But as Thornton Academy was soon to discover, they were gaining more than just a football coach with impressive credentials. As he crossed the river, Bob brought with him his humble and compassionate manner of teaching his students and athletes. Long before league banners were awarded to mark sportsmanship, Bob’s teams epitomized those values. Ever the professional, Bob’s students fondly recall him as a passionate teacher of history compelling his students to truly think about the lessons of our past and how they impact our future.
Bob’s gridiron record at Thornton Academy was 81-50-5, including a Western Maine title and state runner-up in 1974 and a Bowie Division title in 1982. His 15-year tenure, 139 games coached and 81 career wins, all established standards for Thornton Academy football. In 1990, the Maine Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame honored Bob with its Contributor to Amateur Football Award. Bob was also inducted into the Maine Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame in 1999.
Coach Dick Agreste
Dick Agreste’s mark on athletics in Southern Maine began as he starred on the gridiron and on the basketball court for St. Louis High School in Biddeford. His talents led him to Boston University, where he continued his playing career on the football team.
Since arriving on the campus at Thornton Academy, his impact has been nothing less
than impressive. Dick has served in many capacities as an educator, coach and
Upon the retirement as football coach of fellow inductee Bob Cote, Dick took the helm of the squad in 1985. It did not take long for Dick to overcome his only sub-500 season, leading an undefeated team to the 1986 state title in just his second season. He repeated the championship feat in 1988, again finishing atop the Class A standings. His 80 wins and 117 games coached rank him third among all Thornton Academy head football coaches, behind only Bob Cote and current head coach Kevin Kezal. Overall, Dick had a winning percentage of nearly 70% as head football coach. During his tenure, Dick had the privilege of coaching two winners of the coveted James J. Fitzpatrick Trophy - Bob Giroux in 1986 and Art Leveris in 1991. Dick’s accomplishments were recognized by the Maine Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame earlier this year during a recognition ceremony held at Bowdoin College.
Prior to leading the charge at Hill Stadium, Dick led the girls basketball team as head coach from 1981 through 1985, patrolling the Linnell Gymnasium sidelines on his way to a winning percentage of 70%, the highest among all girls basketball coaches at Thornton Academy. His successful four-year span as coach resulted in an SMAA championship in 1984-1985 and Western Maine Class A runner-up in both the 1982-1983 and 1984-1985 seasons.
Dick even tried his hand as varsity golf coach, leading the team from 1972 through 1979, including the Southern Maine High School South Division championship in 1975.
After stepping down as head football coach, Dick’s administrative skills and high school athletic expertise were substantial assets to Thornton Academy as he moved into the role of athletic director. His eleven-year tenure as Thornton Academy’s athletic director saw the school win six state championships sponsored by the Maine Principal’s Association along with two Sportsmanship Awards. In 2002-2003, Dick served as president of the Southwestern Maine Activities Association.
Dick retired from Thornton Academy in 2007 and spends time with his lovely wife Christine, who served as team mother to so many of Dick’s squads over the years. However, the lure of high school athletics once again took over and Dick returned to serve, and he continues to serve, as assistant football coach.
Dick and Christine also have three sons, Jay, Craig and Kirk, who have all contributed to Thornton Academy athletics in many ways themselves. Craig and Kirk have the privilege of coaching football with their father. Dick’s legacy that began in 1972 will continue for many years to come.
1965-1967 Girls Basketball Teams
The Maine girls basketball tournament was not formed until 1975, but the ladies of Thornton Academy dominated the competition landscape from 1965 through 1967, leaving no doubt who the true champion was. Under the direction of coach Dorothea Vlahakos, the teams went undefeated in both the 1965 and 1967 seasons and suffered only one loss in the 1966 season.
Playing during a time in which very little was offered to girls in terms of participation in sports, the Thornton Academy girls basketball teams excelled in a style of play that did not allow certain players to cross half-court.
One newspaper article from 1967 describes their dominance well. “Thornton Academy’s lassies proved to be more than a mismatch for the Waynflete girls here yesterday as the Maroon lassies romped home with a 73-4 triumph. Gail Chadbourne with 28 points and Linda Crosby with 22 led TA in scoring. Coach Miss Dorothea Vlahakos emptied her bench but still could not stop the carnage.”
Miss Vlahakos, a member of Thornton Academy’s class of 1952, was an innovator in her role as a physical education teacher and coach. She was a mentor and role model for the young women who were fortunate to benefit from her efforts while a member of the staff at her alma mater.
1969 Boys Track Team
In 1969, the boys outdoor track team experienced a season of unprecedented success. Under the tutelage of head coach Dom DiBiase and assistant coach Dick Parker, the team won its second consecutive York County championship, beating out ten other schools and outscoring the second place team that day by a score of 74-48.
The culmination of the season came during a nailbiting state championship meet held at the competition grounds in South Portland. The final event of the day, the 880-yard relay, was the only relay on the meet’s docket. Thornton Academy entered the race trailing Morse High School by a mere 1/2 point. The TA speedsters managed to cross the finish line in third place, besting Morse who ended up in fourth place. The slim margin of victory in the relay earned the Maroon and Gold three points for the event as compared to only two points for Morse. The tables were turned and Thornton Academy emerged the winners, again by a mere 1/2 point. This 1969 team became the first boys outdoor track team from Thornton Academy to win the state championship in what was known then as “Class L.”
Many individuals stood out on that exciting spring day. Garnering ten of the team’s total points were Dave Harris ’69, and Tom Welch ’70, who took home first and second place, respectively, in the long jump. State records were set by Harris in the long jump with an effort of 21 feet 3 1/2 inches as well as Adrien Dutremble ’69, in the
440-yard dash, running the race in 51.7 seconds. Dave Staples, Buddy Bolduc, and Kevin Savage, all from the Class of 1970 also made strong contributions to the team.
1953-1955 Football Teams
Great Moment AwardFootball at Thornton Academy dates back to 1893 when Coach Joseph T. Shaw led the first Maroon and Gold gridiron squad to a 5-3 record and a York County championship. Since that time, Thornton has laid claim to 32 school state championships, including the most recent title won in 2012.
Thornton Academy football has experienced some periods of dominance in the Maine high school football scene during its storied history.
Former headmaster Robert Bowie led two teams to state championships and had three unbeaten seasons during his tenure at the helm of the Golden Trojans while his successor George Martin won three state crowns and a remarkable 87% of his games in Saco.
However, for a period of two-and-one half seasons beginning midway through the 1953 campaign, the Thornton Academy football program established a pattern of dominance that has been unmatched by any other era in school history. Led by Thornton Academy Hall of Fame Coach Thomas Eck, the Maroon and Gold won twenty-four consecutive contests.
The streak began in the fifth week of the 1953 season. After starting that year with a record of 0-2-2, including consecutive shutouts at the hands of Cony and Cheverus, Thornton Academy’s offense exploded for 38 points in a victory over South Portland. Led by all-conference selection and team captain Jim Berry, Thornton won all four remaining contests on the schedule, culminating in a 13-7 victory over Biddeford in the “Battle of the Bridge” game.
The 1954 squad utilized the momentum established during the previous season by posting a season-opening 7-0 shutout over Edward Little. This would mark the first of seven shutouts that season recorded by the Maroon and Gold, who went on to outscore their opponents by a margin of 299-39 en route to a 10-0 season and a Triple F state championship. Thornton capped off its season with a 40-0 victory over Biddeford, marking the last time that the two long-time rivals would play until 1963. Leroy Martel, Fred Stackpole, and Brad Leach were selected to the all-state team and were joined by Norman Hirst, Roger Spaulding, and captain Larry Cyr on the all-conference squad.
Led by an outstanding duo of captains, and past Thornton Academy Athletic Hall of Fame inductees, Roger Spaulding and Brad Leach, the 1955 edition of Thornton Academy football entered the season with high hopes and the expectation that it would contend for another state crown. The Maroon and Gold rolled over the opposition in each of its nine contests and outscored them by 273-59. Spaulding was named the most valuable football player in the State of Maine while Leach earned All-American honors. The Maroon and Gold replaced the annual end of the year game against Biddeford with a contest against Portsmouth, New Hampshire and defeated them 26-14. Thomas Eck ended his four-year tenure as Thornton Academy coach following that game and handed over the reins of the program to William Pavlikowski.
The Thornton Academy streak finally ended in the opening week of the 1956 season when the Maroon and Gold fell to Edward Little by a score of 19-7. In more recent years, programs from South Portland and Cheverus have eclipsed the Class A winning streak total established by the 1953, 1954, and 1955 Thornton Academy squads. However, at no time in our school’s history has the football program ever achieved the level of week-to-week success accomplished by these special Maroon and Gold teams.
This period of dominance against some of the best competition in the state of Maine has earned these players and coaches who participated in the program at that time the distinction of receiving the Thornton Academy Athletic Hall of Fame’s
“Great Moments” Award.
2013-Samantha McAuliffe Kane '83
Sam Kane entered Thornton Academy in 1979 determined to make a difference. Her impact came first on the field hockey field where she played on the junior varsity team as a freshman and on the varsity team as a sophomore. She was part of a 10-3 team her sophomore year that made it to the quarter finals of the playoffs. During both the 1981 and 1982 campaigns, Sam was the team’s leading scorer. She co-captained the 1982 team and was recognized as a first team all-star after scoring 11 goals.
After giving basketball a try during her freshman year, Sam followed the encouragement of coaches George Mendros and Larry Bowie to lend her skills to the fledgling girls winter track team. Sam was one of several who were pioneers in this arena and set the stage for what the girls track program has become today. She was also a vital member of the spring track team, earning several points even as a freshman. Sam continued to contribute to the successful 1981 and 1982 teams, including two second place finishes in the state championship meet as part of the 4 X 100 relay team and two top five finishes in the 1600 meter relay. As a senior in 1983, Sam tied for the state title in the inaugural running of the 300 meter hurdles.
Sam’s achievements not only on the fields of play, but in the classroom as well, earned her Thornton Academy’s very first scholar/athlete award recognized during the Senior Sports Banquet. Sam continued to shine as part of the field hockey team at Bentley College and continues her athletic involvement today as part of the UNUM Corporate track team as well as competing in various road races and in soccer leagues.
Sam has been described as being an inspiration to her family, even as the youngest of eight children, as well as an inspiration to her friends and teammates.
2013-Great Moments Award: Opening of Linnell Gymnasium
The major indoor athletic and convocation center at Thornton Academy, William Shepherd Linnell Gymnasium has served the school’s students and the greater community since its opening in 1963. In addition to acting as a practice and competition venue for Thornton Academy basketball teams for the past fifty years, Linnell Gymnasium has also been utilized as a classroom space for wellness and dance classes, for school assemblies, and as an alternative facility for Thornton’s spring commencement exercises. Linnell Gymnasium also plays a major role in the life of the greater Saco community as well and has hosted a variety of community and social events such as the Kerryman’s Pub Road Race/Mary’s Walk, the Children’s Winter Carnival, and the annual college fair.
The facility is named in honor of William Shepherd Linnell, a 1903 graduate of Thornton Academy. Mr. Linnell, who later graduated from Bowdoin College and George Washington University Law School, was a senior partner at Linnell, Perkins, Thompson, Hinckley, and Thaxter, a Portland law firm, where he began practicing law in 1911. A major supporter of education in the state of Maine, Linnell was a member of the Board of Trustees at Thornton Academy from 1933 until his death in 1968 and was president of that group beginning in 1947. In addition, he was a trustee of both Bangor Theological Seminary and Westbrook Junior College and was president of the board at the latter school. A dormitory at Westbrook Junior College, now part of the University of New England, is named for him.
In addition to these activities, Mr. Linnell was a major civic leader in the greater Portland area and throughout the state of Maine. He was president of the Portland Gas and Light Company (now Northern Utilities) from 1927-1963 and wrote a history of that company in 1950. In addition, he represented Maine at the 1936 Republican National Convention and was a Republican national committeeman. He also was president of the Portland Chamber of Commerce and was a Mason and a Shriner. In 1960 he received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Bowdoin College.
Given his service to Thornton Academy and the larger community, Mr. Linnell was a logical choice for naming the new gymnasium built on the Eastern end of the Thornton Academy campus in 1963. The growing student population in the late 1950’s had rendered the much smaller George Addison Emery Gymnasium as inadequate for the school’s athletic needs, and Thornton’s trustees, under the leadership of Mr. Linnell, approved the building of a new space. While the facility was being erected, Thornton Academy basketball teams utilized off-campus facilities, including the Saco Armory and the Hanson Gymnasium in Buxton for contests. Known as “The Orphans”, these Thornton Academy teams finally came home for good in the fall of 1963 with the opening of the new Linnell facility.
The first athletic contest ever hosted at Linnell Gymnasium was a boys basketball round robin on November 30, 1963. Led by Ken Pike’s 10 points, Thornton defeated Sanford 36-28 in that exhibition tilt. The first countable game hosted by Thornton at Linnell was a game against Old Orchard Beach six days later. Despite Don Caouette’s 21 point effort, the Maroon and Gold of Coach Jim McGaffin, a Thornton Academy Athletic Hall of Famer in his own right, fell to the Seagulls by a score of 63-53. Thornton claimed its first home court victory on December 17 with a narrow 64-59 triumph over Kennebunk. Caouette again led the Saco quintet with a 28 point night.
Featuring a parquet floor reminiscent of the Boston Garden, Linnell Gymnasium has been the scene of the some of the greatest moments in the school’s athletic history. For the past fifty seasons, some of the finest athletes to don the maroon and gold have played their home contests at this venerable site. All-state hoopsters such as Bob Warner, Dick Martin, James Morse, Andrew Shaw, Cheryl Cote, Lisa DeFrancesco, Katie Curtis, and Mari Warner learned their skills on the Linnell Gymnasium surface, and the 2009 Class A boys basketball champions called the facility home.
Given the importance of Linnell Gymnasium to both the school and the communities it serves, it is fitting that the 2013 “Great Moments” Award was given by the Thornton Academy Athletic Hall of Fame Committee to commemorate the golden anniversary of the opening of this venerable venue and to recognize the outstanding legacy of its esteemed namesake, William Shepherd Linnell. Linnell Gymnasium plays a significant recreational, educational, and social role at Thornton Academy and has served the school well over that time span.
2013-John Newman (Coach)
Jeddy Newman’s mark on high school athletics began in 1961 when he was a member of Cheverus High School’s state championship basketball team and also its undefeated Telegram League baseball team. After attending Boston College, the University of Maine Orono, and the University of Maine Portland, where he played basketball, Jeddy quickly began to make his mark teaching and coaching at Bonny Eagle High School, where he led the Scots to the Class L State Championship in 1970.
Later in 1970, Jeddy made the transition to Thornton Academy, a move that the school still benefits from today. Hired as a Social Studies teacher, Jeddy coached basketball for the balance of the decade of the ‘70s. In 1972, Jeddy led the boys basketball team where no other T.A. team had been before – to the finals of the Western Maine championship tournament. After a 14-7 record that year, Jeddy watched as his crew, including tournament MVP Bob Warner, charged through to the bracket to the championship game before falling to Westbrook.
In 1993, Jeddy’s role at Thornton Academy changed as he was named Athletic Director after serving for a year as interim director. Jeddy served in this capacity until his retirement in 1997.
Current students are still touched by the legacy that Jeddy left through the recognition to both a male and female athlete as recipients of the Jeddy Newman Memorial Scholar/Athlete Award at the conclusion of each school year.
Jeddy’s magnetic personality, coupled with his knowledge and passion for youth sports, and basketball in particular, were assets to Thornton Academy student athletes for decades. Jeddy was an ambassador for Thornton Academy, both here in Maine and beyond its borders.
2013-1988 Football Team
On the evening of November 19, 1988 the streets of Saco welcomed home a State Championship Football team for the second time in three years. Earlier in the day Thornton Academy dominated Lawrence High School in a lopsided 47-13 coronation.
Thornton, in its fourth year under the helm of Head Coach Dick Agreste, entered the playoffs as the third seed in a four-team tournament. In the first round TA knocked off defending champion Lewiston by scoring two fourth quarter touchdowns capped by Todd Maurice’s PAT kick conversion to win 21-20. A week later the TA eleven leaned on its defense to defeat top-seeded South Portland, limiting the Red Riots vaunted rushing attack to just 130 yards along with three key pass interceptions by Christian Sommer, Dave Goulet, and Shawn Ouellette. A 16-14 victory propelled the Trojans into the State Championship game against Lawrence High School at Bowdoin College.
Despite an inauspicious start that saw Lawrence return the opening kickoff for a touchdown, the Trojans left little doubt which team would be lifting the gold ball at the days end. Behind the powerful offensive line of Glen Arnold, John Douzepis, Al Pelletier, Erik Sargent and Mike Vigue, fullback Lance Lavoie scored four first half touchdowns on his way to a 148 yard rushing MVP performance. Quarterback Christian Sommer ran for one touchdown and threw for two more – 17 yards to tight-end Scott Newman and 28 yards to wide receiver Dennis Steeves. Tailback Mike Babcock added 76 yards rushing to the team effort. Thornton’s ever-improving defense limited Lawrence to a mere 136 total yards of offense on the day.
The Gold Ball celebration that started in the pine groves of Bowdoin College, continued with a parade on Main St. in Saco, and was culminated with the pealing of the victory bell on Thornton Academy’s campus.
2012-Lisa DeFrancesco '85
Lisa DeFrancesco flourished as a three-sport athlete during her years at Thornton Academy. Whether wielding a field hockey stick, a basketball, or a softball, she played any game the way it should be played – with skill, confidence, and intensity.
As a field hockey midfielder, she was able to use her skilled stick work on offense and her tenacious, intimidating style of play on defense. “She is a really exciting player to watch,” stated former TA Field Hockey coach, Nancy Mailman. “When she gets the ball she can do a lot of things with it.”
As a captain her senior year, DeFrancesco led the Trojans to the playoffs by compiling an 11-3 record. She was named an all-state selection three consecutive years; garnering first team honors in both her junior and senior seasons. Following her senior year, she was selected for the Olympic “C” team where her performance at the weeklong camp earned her a promotion to the Olympic “B” team.
Although DeFrancesco’s field hockey feats are remarkable, she was a noted basketball player as well. Her coach, Dick Agreste remarked that, “With her sharp passing and strong ball handling she makes things happen.” After earning second team all-conference honors as a junior averaging 11.2 points and 5.2 assists per game, she became a third team all-state selection as a senior when she averaged 11.9 points and 5.5 assists per game. As a senior captain she led the Trojans to a 17-1 regular season record that propelled them to the playoffs and an appearance in the Western Maine Class A Final.
As in field hockey, her hustle and determination were an intangible cause for TA’s success in basketball. In her 53-game tenure (2nd all time) on the hardwood, DeFrancesco totaled 141 assists (a new TA record), 493 points (5th all time TA) and 52 steals. DeFrancesco also found time to play softball in the spring where she was a two-year varsity starter. As a junior captain, she pitched her Trojans into the playoffs and earned all-conference honors.
Following her graduation, DeFrancesco accepted a full athletic scholarship to attend and play field hockey at Division 1 Northeastern University in Boston. As a senior captain she led her Huskie team to the Field Hockey Final Four before being upended in the national semi-final.
2012-Lowell Inness '12
Even 100 years ago, the halls of Thornton Academy were filled with outstanding athletes. During the decade beginning with 1910, Thornton won 80% of its football games on its way to claiming seven championships. One of those outstanding athletes was Lowell Inness, a member of the graduating class of 1912. Inness’ savvy was displayed on the gridiron as he led the 1911 championship team as quarterback. His skill and leadership paved the way to a 6-1-1 record, and kick started TA football to a decade of dominance. Inness’ expertise extended beyond the football field. In 1912, his senior year, Inness won the singles championship at the Bowdoin Interscholastic Tennis Association tournament. His efforts on the court earned him a trophy to bring home to Saco. Following his graduation from Thornton Academy and then Yale, Inness was a long-time educator in the Pittsburgh area, an author, and also a benefactor to his alma maters.
2012-Dr. Conner Moore (Contributor)
For more than 40 years, a familiar face could be found on the sidelines of Thornton Academy athletic events. Dr. Conner Moore was on the forefront of providing high school athletes medical attention. Whereas today, medical programs are the norm, very few schools provided such services to student athletes when Dr. Moore began his work at Thornton Academy.
Born in Detroit, Dr. Moore arrived in Saco in 1968 after graduating from Dartmouth College and Cornell Medical College. Within two years, he became the team doctor for the Thornton Academy football team.
In a recent article written about the history of Hill Stadium, Dick Agreste, former Trojan head coach, notes that sports medicine was in its infancy when Dr. Moore arrived in the community. “He started out fairly green in sports medicine,” recalls Agreste, “but attended conferences to become more proficient in managing football injuries.”
His professionalism and compassion was a benefit to Thornton athletes for decades. Dr. Moore dedicated his life to the health of others and one way that he demonstrated that dedication was through his service to Thornton Academy’s athletic programs. Countless coaches and student athletes relied on Dr. Moore’s sage advice both to prevent injuries and to tend to them when they did happen.
2012-1962 Football Team
It has been 50 years since Bob Kimball plunged over the goal line to secure a 13-7 win over their cross-town rival St. Louis Eagles, yet the pealing of the victory bell still resounds in the ears of those young men who claimed a State Championship for Thornton Academy that day.
A preseason newspaper article stated, “A new coach with a familiar name and a dozen lettermen plus promising new stock hope to make Thornton Academy a Class A football conference contender once more.” Brad Leach, fresh out of college, was in his inaugural year at the helm coaching the Maroon and Gold. The 1962 eleven, captained by David and Dennis McNabb, rolled through the season, winning by an average margin of 20 points. Each game the stingy, hard-nosed defense held opponents to just 27 points through the first eight games while its powerful offense compiled 203 points over the same time span.
Meanwhile, across the river, the St. Louis squad was also making a mark for itself. The two teams entered the ninth and final week of the season both sporting undefeated 8 - 0 records. The twin cities were the hotbed of schoolboy football that fall and many were anxiously anticipating the showdown of these two fine teams. St. Louis loaned 2,000 temporary bleachers to accommodate the expected crowd. Heavy rains over the weekend postponed the finale to the following Monday. As luck would have it, the Veteran’s Day holiday ensured a tremendous crowd estimated at 8,000 strong at Thornton Academy’s Athletic Field.
A newspaper account the next day reported that “TA and St. Louis locked in a tremendous defensive struggle for most of the game interrupted only by Thornton’s march to a score (John Soucy) with the opening kickoff and a St. Louis score late in the third quarter. Paul Carter was a defensive standout aided by Mark Black and Tom Johnson.”
In the fourth quarter, with four minutes remaining in the game, TA defensive back Steve Staples stopped a St. Louis player short of a first down as TA took over on downs at their own 37-yard line. A 63-yard drive ensued. With 22 seconds remaining on the clock the offensive line found enough footing in the muddied gridiron to establish a seam for Kimball to dive into the end zone and into the TA history books. The 9-0 record established Thornton Academy as Maine State Champions.
Post-season accolades saw four members of the squad garner All-State status: guard Paul Carter, fullback Bob Kimball, halfback David McNabb, and quarterback Dennis McNabb.
2012-Great Moments Award: William Howard '72
Thornton Academy has an incredibly long history of outstanding athletic performances by individuals on the biggest stages found in Maine. Adversity is not uncommon and the will to win has spirited many Trojan athletes to rise above the circumstances. One demonstration of such triumph in the face of a challenge came from Bill Howard, Class of 1972, in that year’s Southwestern Maine Championship Meet. Bill, a strong favorite to win the 45 yard low hurdles after posting near record times throughout the season, hit the first hurdle and went down in a heap after injuring his left knee. For many young athletes, their day would have been disappointingly over. Not Bill.
After stepping off the track to regain his composure and to get patched up, Bill forged on in an impressive way. He returned to the meet to win the high jump with a personal best of 6’2”, then continued on to capture first place in the intermediate 600 by beating the race favorite. For his efforts, Bill was awarded the Vinall Trophy as the Outstanding Performer.
2012-Kristin Hoitt Nason '84
In February of 1983, Title IX was only nine years old and many schools had yet to fully implement a girls’ athletic program. Kristin Hoitt, in her junior year at Thornton Academy, was about to prove that girls were worthy contenders in a predominantly male sport and athletic program. Thornton did not offer a girls’ indoor track program so Hoitt and a few other girls practiced with the boys’ team throughout the winter. Her fierce determination enabled her to overcome the frustration of competing against boys at the Portland Expo meets. Hoitt’s perseverance came through for the Trojan boys at a critical moment. The newspaper reported that “in a meet that pitted Thornton Academy against Westbrook and eventual state champion Cheverus, she did the unexpected. By placing fourth in the junior 40 yard dash with a time of 5.3 seconds she scored a point, one that would eventually give the Trojans a 77-76 victory over Cheverus and win the meet. It was only the second time a female had placed in the history of the boys track league.” At the Southwestern Championships she was named the first female winner of the James Daley Award, symbolic of dedication and sportsmanship towards track.
But the best was yet to come. One week later at the 1983 Girls Indoor Track State Championship held at Colby College, Kristin Hoitt etched her name into Thornton Academy athletic history. That day she won three events, setting two state records in the process. In the long jump, her jump of 16 feet 11 inches shattered the old record by nine inches. The jump also broke the Colby College record. In the 300 yard dash, her time of 38.0 seconds bested the previous standard of 38.2 seconds. In the one event Hoitt won but did not set a record, the 60 yard dash, she missed by only one tenth of a second. One year later Hoitt led her Trojan team to a fourth place finish at the 1984 state meet, winning the 55 meter dash in 7.4 seconds, the 300 in 38.5 seconds, and placing fifth in the long jump. She scored 23 of TA’s 42 total points. In outdoor track, Kristin Hoitt was equally successful winning both the 100 meter and 200 meter dashes at the 1984 Outdoor Track State Championships. All in all, Kristin was a seven-time state champion.
2011-1986 Championship Football Team
On November 15, 1986, at windswept Whittier Field on the Bowdoin College Campus, Thornton Academy reigned as king of Maine schoolboy football, capturing the Maine Class A State Championship with a 28-6 victory over Bangor High School. Fullback Bob Giroux, who went on to win the coveted James J. Fitzpatrick award, ripped the Bangor defense for 137 yards rushing and three touchdowns behind the offensive line of Craig Thibeau, Paul Tate, Rene Menard, Scott Sicard, Mike Goulet, and Mike Tarbox. TA’s defense stifled the Bangor attack and caused six turnovers. For Coach Dick Agreste and his team, the win capped a perfect 10-0 undefeated season, and earned Coach of the Year accolades for Coach Agreste.
The Trojans, led by captains David Robinson, Craig Thibeau, and Mike Tarbox, captured the Bowie Division Championship by defeating Biddeford 45-20. A 21-12 first round playoff victory over South Portland catapulted TA into the state title game where the Trojans captured their first title in 24 years.
2011 - 1956 & 1957 Undefeated Field Hockey Teams
It did not take long after the initial competitive field hockey team was established at Thornton Academy in 1952 for the program to enjoy an abundance of success. The highlight of the first decade of TA field hockey was the back-to-back undefeated campaigns of 1956 and 1957. The teams were strong in their stick-play against all foes that they faced. The teams were so dominant, they did not give up even one goal during the two seasons. Though there was no playoff system at the time, the teams were clearly head and shoulders above their competition.
The teams were led by several players recognized for their efforts by being named league all-stars. These names included Carole Warren, Brenda Leach, Georgeanna Soucy, Lynne Cunningham, Rose Marie Arel, Donna Gallagher, Brenda Grace, Donna Shaffer, Sandra Miner and Doris Bergeron.
2011 - Great Moments Award - Paul S. Hill, Jr. Stadium
Thornton Academy boasts a long and storied athletic history that dates back to the 1890s when the first interscholastic sports teams began competing with other area schools in a variety of activities. In its rich tradition of athletic excellence, some of Thornton’s greatest performers and most memorable moments are linked with Dr. Paul S. Hill, Jr. Stadium, the school’s main outdoor competition venue. In operation since 1980, Hill Stadium has been home to the school’s football, soccer, field hockey, cross country, outdoor track and field, and lacrosse teams and is generally regarded as one of the top high school playing venues in southern Maine.
Named in honor of Dr. Paul S. Hill, Jr., a prominent Saco physician who also served as President of the Thornton Academy Board of Trustees and was a major benefactor of the project, Hill Stadium became home to many Thornton Academy teams beginning in the fall of 1980. Prior to that time the Maroon and Gold played its gridiron tilts and ran outdoor track and field meets directly across the street at the property currently owned by Rite Aid. Weather permitting, Hill Stadium also is the site of the annual Thornton Academy graduation each June.
Dr. Paul S. Hill, Jr. was born in Saco in 1906 and graduated from Thornton Academy in 1923. After doing his undergraduate work at Bowdoin, he attended Johns Hopkins Medical School and returned to his native Saco, where he practiced medicine for a number of years. He was Chief of Staff at Webber Hospital and owned the former Trull Hospital in Biddeford. During World War II, he served in the Army Medical Corps and was commissioned a
Lieutenant Colonel. Dr. Hill attended General George S. Patton when he was injured in an automobile accident that would eventually cause his death.
One of Dr. Hill’s greatest passions was his service to his alma mater. He joined the Board of Trustees in 1938 and became president in 1966. During his time, he was considered to be one of the city’s leading citizens. At the time of the stadium dedication in 1980, one resident noted, “[There is] no one more appropriate than Doc Hill for whom to name the new stadium.” Another contemporary noted, “He is the most loved man in Saco today . . . loved and respected, a rare individual.”
The Hill Stadium project was developed on a site that was formerly part of acreage owned by the Scamman family, longtime neighbors to Thornton Academy. The first athletic contest played on the new Hill Stadium turf took place on September 6, 1980, when Thornton Academy faced long-time rival Biddeford in an exhibition football contest.
Even with the change to a new on-campus facility, longtime Thornton fans entering Hill Stadium for the first time that fall were met with a familiar sight: the maroon and gold colored archway that had served as a ticket booth and entry point for football goers for many years was moved to the west side of Main Street. Hill Stadium has been home to some of the most famous moments in Thornton Academy athletic history, including Western Maine championship victories in football in 1986 and 1988 and a regional title in girls soccer in 2009.
The facility has also been the home field for two state championship football teams and four state title teams in boys and girls outdoor track. Every other year the stadium has been host to the annual “Battle of the Bridge” football game between the Golden Trojans and rival Biddeford Tigers. Legend has it that the crowd at the 1991 Biddeford game exceeded 10,000 spectators.
In addition to being the scene of numerous championship tilts, Hill Stadium has been the home facility for some of the most talented individual performers that the Thornton Academy athletic program has produced. Fitzpatrick Trophy winners Bob Giroux and Art Leveris thrilled partisan spectators with their exploits on Saturday afternoons at Hill Stadium. Track and field standouts such as Hall of Famers Nichole Motil and Leslie Couture paved the way to multiple state championships by training and performing at the stadium, and the sister and brother combination of Brynn and Dan Smith set school, league, and state records in the shot put and discus.
Some of Thornton’s most legendary and successful coaches, including Bob Cote, Dick Agreste, and Mark DeFrancesco have patrolled the sidelines at Hill Stadium. Given the quality of its playing surface and other amenities offered by the facility, including two large grandstands and a modern concession stand, Hill Stadium has been selected on numerous occasions to host major events in football and track and field. The very first Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl took place at Thornton Academy on July 28, 1990, and both the Southwestern Maine Activities Association and Maine Principals’ Association have utilized the stadium for league and state championship track and field meets. On two occasions Thornton Academy has hosted the New England Track and Field Championships and will host this event on a tri-annual basis beginning in 2012.
As we recognize the generosity of Dr. Hill and his gift to Thornton Academy, a school that he truly loved and supported, we are reminded of the many memories of classic Saturday afternoon football tilts and outstanding track and field performances that are evoked by this facility.
Beginning in the spring of 2011, Thornton Academy embarked upon a new journey by replacing the original sod of Hill Stadium with artificial turf and by adding a new track and field lights to this venerable home of Thornton athletics. Although the stadium has a markedly different look and will be utilized for night contests in the future, many aspects of the project reflect the spirit of generosity of Dr. Hill and his fellow trustees who approved the original project in the first place. A portion of the financing for the project included funds originally generated by Dr. Hill and his colleagues in the early 1980’s. Even the original loam used to build the Hill Stadium turf has been recycled; that material is being utilized to develop natural grass playing facilities on the western part of the campus. Today Hill Stadium remains the envy of schools in southern Maine and throughout New England and is one of top on-campus athletic playing facilities in the region.
The vision of Dr. Hill and his associates to provide a high quality playing facility for Thornton Academy student-athletes has entered an exciting new phase. In addition to the New England Track and Field Championships in June of 2012, Thornton Academy is slated to host the 2011 Maine Principals’ Association regional field hockey title games in Classes A, B, and C and will be a prime candidate for hosting championship play in soccer, football, and lacrosse in upcoming seasons. For the current generation of Thornton Academy student-athletes and fans and those who will follow them, it is a source of great pride and will continue to be a scene of great memories.
2011 - Kenneth Luce, Class of 1939
Ken Luce was the leader of the line for the nearly unstoppable 1938 Thornton Academy football team. His strength, quickness and leadership abilities at the center position opened numerous running lanes for a team that has been described as a “scoring machine”. Along with Swede Anderson, a 2006 inductee into the Thornton Academy Athletic Hall of Fame, Luce stood out among his peers by being named to both the All-Conference and All-State teams.
Ken’s skills on the basketball court were equally as spectacular. Along with two players from South Portland and one each from Portland and Deering High Schools, Ken was named to the Portland Press Herald All-Conference Team in 1939.
An all around athlete, Ken also lettered three years in baseball. His interest in baseball and the Saco community led him to manage and coach the 1954, 1955 and 1958 Saco Post 96 Owen Davis American Legion Junior baseball teams to state titles.
Off the field Ken was devoted to his country. He served during World War II and has been deeply involved in the American Legion. He and his wife, Charlotte, raised three boys: Ken Jr., Darryl and Jeffrey.
2011 - Leslie Couture Mourmouras, Class of 1986
Leslie Couture Mourmouras was a four-year, three-sport athlete at Thornton Academy. Leslie paced the field hockey team as a top scorer in her sophomore, junior and senior years. Her performance in field hockey earned her a spot on the All-Conference Team and honorable mention recognition on the All-State Team in her senior season.
Leslie’s junior year of indoor track brought significant achievements as she was a conference All-Star, scored the best conference time in the 300-yard dash and beat the state record holder at the time in the 40-yard dash. She scored in three events in both the Southwestern meet and the state championship meet. Coach Mark DeFrancesco said of Leslie’s achievements, “She is very dedicated and she never complains. She works hard every day of the week. She is one of the best in the league, and she’s only a junior.” Leslie’s hard work and dedication continued during the outdoor track season when she placed in four events at the Southwestern meet and in three events in the state championship meet.
As a senior, Leslie continued to excel on the track. As the captain of the state championship indoor track team, Leslie was undefeated for the season in both the 40-yard dash, where she set a league record, and the 300-yard dash. At the state championship meet, she won the 55 meter and 300 meter races and also won the long jump, an event she had not competed in for over a year. Her performance on that day netted 30 of her championship team’s 64 points. As a result, Leslie was the first to be unanimously voted as the outstanding athlete of the league. In the spring, Leslie won the 100, 200 and long jump at the Southwestern meet and then placed second in the 100 and 200 and third in the long jump at the state championship meet.
Leslie continues to participate in the sports she excelled at in high school by coaching the varsity field hockey team at Biddeford High School and coaching track locally. Leslie lives in Biddeford with her husband, Peter, and her children: Max, Mallory, and Megan.
2011 - Richard Kerry, Class of 1959
Dick Kerry was a standout athlete at Thornton Academy in the late-1950s. On the gridiron, he was a four-year varsity team player. As a member of the conference champion TA squad his junior year, he led the entire state in points scored while landing on the Second-Team All-State Team. Dick followed his junior year with an impressive senior season and earned a spot on the First-Team All-State Team. He formed a nearly unstoppable offensive tandem with quarterback Dan Donovan, a 2009 inductee to the Thornton Academy Athletic Hall of Fame.
Dick was also a stellar player on the baseball diamond where he was a four year varsity player. He excelled both on the mound and at the plate. One newspaper article describes his efforts in one game as follows: “Kerry aided his own cause in the fifth with the longest blow of the season. The Thornton batsmith tagged a pitch into deep left field that landed on the girls’ softball field 350 feet away for a home run with one on.” Dick’s baseball skills earned him spots on the 1958 and 1959 All Telegram League teams.
2010 - Bryce Roberts '58
Bryce Roberts was one of the rare four sport athletes during his days on the Thornton Academy campus. On the baseball diamond, he was on the varsity squad for four years and was named to the All-Telegram team in 1956. On the links, Bryce was runner-up in the Maine schoolboy golf championships his senior year.
On the basketball court, Bryce was a standout in leading the team in scoring, assists and rebounds on the 1958 squad that returned to the Western Maine playoff tournament after a 12 year absence. The team was coached by Jim McGaffin, a 2007 inductee to the Thornton Academy Athletic Hall of Fame.
Other notable accomplishments came on the cross-country course where he consistently led the pack. In 1957, he paced the team to a nearly unblemished regular season record, a first place finish in the Southwestern Maine championship, a second place finish in the state meet, and fifth place in the New England showdown. Individually, Bryce won every single regular season race, placed second in the state meet and seventh against his New England competition.
After graduation, he took his talents to the University of Connecticut where he continued to excel, especially at baseball and cross-country. Bryce was inducted into the Maine Golf Hall of Fame in 2006 and was a long-time pro at Prouts Neck Country Club.
2010 - Art Leveris '92
Art Leveris was a powerhouse fullback during his three years playing football at Thornton Academy. A punishing runner, Art stands alone as the all-time leading scorer in TA football history. His accolades are many and serve as proof of the widespread respect he garnered from coaches and the media both in Maine and throughout the country.
Art was the 1991 winner of the coveted James J. Fitzpatrick Trophy which goes to the top high school football player in the State of Maine. By the time he concluded his career at Thornton, Art held New England records for both rushing yards and points scored. Art was named to the all-state team for three years and the all New England team during his senior year. In addition, he was the 1990 and 1991 Maine Gatorade Player of the Year and the 1991 Maine Sunday Telegram Player of the Year. Art’s prowess on the gridiron was featured nationally on an ESPN television show called “Scholastic Sports America”. Head football coach Dick Agreste concisely summed up Art’s career in a comment that accompanied Art’s announcement to the All-State team his senior year saying - “We’ve had some great running backs here, but Art’s the best we’ve ever had.”
Art was recruited by over 300 colleges and universities across the country. He settled on the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland where he played football for two years and was a member of the graduating class of 1997. Art currently lives in Massachusetts with his wife and three young children.
2010 - Nichole Motil '95
Regardless of the event, Nichole Motil was the one to beat. In her time at Thornton Academy, she set nine individual school records in indoor and outdoor track and she and her teammates set three other records in relay events. Nichole won 18 individual state championships in various track events including the high jump, the triple jump, the 55 meter hurdles, the 100 meter hurdles and the 300 meter hurdles.
In an astonishing single-day performance that happened the day before she graduated, Nichole set three individual state records. Perhaps her most amazing feat is that following her sophomore year, she did not lose a single final heat race on the track for any event in which she participated in any regular season, league, regional or state competition.
Nichole was an SMAA All-Star in every season she competed in both indoor and outdoor track. While there was no award at the time for outdoor track, she was the Outstanding Athlete in the SMAA for indoor track in her sophomore, junior and senior years. Nichole was awarded the Maine Sunday Telegram All Sport Athlete of the Year following her senior year for her participation in soccer, indoor and outdoor track.
Marc DeFrancesco, Nicky’s coach for every season of indoor and outdoor track, has this to say about her -“While others have followed her with excellent numbers, championships, records and the like, there has never been a more dominant athlete in TA’s track and field history. More than all the medals and all the fame, I will remember that Nichole is a tremendous human being.”
Nichole took her talents to the University of Maine in Orono where she continued to compete in track and field. Now, she works in education and leads her own squad of high school athletes as a track coach.
2010 - Robert Bowie, Football Coach
Thornton Academy has a rich history of outstanding coaches that have led their teams to successful campaigns and state championships. Robert Bowie is part of that history. Though better remembered as Thornton’s Headmaster from 1956 through 1971, Bowie also left his mark on TA through his work patrolling the sidelines as a football coach.
Bob began his career in Connecticut before coming to Thornton in 1930. The young coach molded many teams, including the state championship team of 1931. That team had a record of 8-0-1, including a victory over previously unbeaten Cony High, which gave it a clear claim to the title. 1932 was supposed to be a rebuilding year with the return of only one running back, but Bowie led his crew to another undefeated season and staked its claim to another championship. The 1933 team, though not state champs, finished a respectable 7-2.
In Bob’s final year as the TA football coach, the 1934 team went undefeated. That year the team outscored its opponents 176-6 including a victory over Biddeford by a score of 31-6. The Maroon and Gold defeated South Portland in a playoff game to claim another state championship. Overall, Bob amassed a record of 31-11-3.
Bob left Thornton after the 1934 season and worked as a teacher and coach at Portland High School. He also coached baseball in Tarrytown, New York. In 1949, he returned to TA as submaster while coaching cross-country and track. He became headmaster in 1953 and gave up coaching while he lead Thornton for eighteen years. He remained a staunch supporter of TA athletics.
2010 - Thomas Eck, Football Coach
Thomas Eck logged only four years on the sidelines of Thornton Academy’s gridiron, but during his tenure he established a legacy of success that is worthy of honor. Eck attended Colgate University. After playing three years of varsity football for the Red Raiders, he graduated in 1938.
He coached in Massachusetts schools until the outbreak of World War II when he joined the Air Force as a special projects officer. Following his service to our country, he joined the staff of the University of Massachusetts as an assistant football coach and was subsequently named the head coach in 1947. He resigned in 1951 to return to high school football.
Tom Eck arrived at TA in the fall of 1952 and brought with him the experience and knowledge acquired at the collegiate level, including the introduction of using film to scout and prepare for opponents. He promptly gave football fans a glimpse of the better days ahead. His first squad finished at 8-2. The team’s 321 points set a State of Maine scoring record and its season-ending 53-7 win over Biddeford remains as the largest margin of victory in the Battle of the Bridge. In 1954, Eck and his troops claimed TA’s first state title in twenty years by winning all ten games. Their offense was ferocious, averaging 30 points per game. Their defense was even more impressive, holding seven opponents scoreless and allowing a mere 39 points for the season. In 1955, continuing its offensive onslaught, Eck and TA swept through its second consecutive undefeated season and defended its state championship title.
Eck left Thornton after the 1955 season with a 33-4-2 record, including a 24 game winning streak, two Western Maine Conference titles, two State of Maine Class FFF titles and a state scoring record. He is a member of the National Football Coaches Hall of Fame.
2010 - Tom Winston, Radio Announcer
GREAT MOMENTS AWARD - An avid sportsman, Tom Winston was the radio voice of the Maroon and Gold throughout the 1960’s and occasionally since that time. Many TA fans would listen in on radio station WIDE, 1400 on your dial, as Tom broadcast football and basketball games live from his perch in the booth on the 50 yard line or high above courtside.
In his efforts to bring TA games to the homebound fans or to the unfortunate few who had to work, Tom would paint a verbal picture with such signature phrases as “tricky dribble” and “running right-hander” to describe the action taking place at Emery Gymnasium or later at the new Linnell Gymnasium.
Tom was on the air for many of TA’s great moments. His energy and effort behind the microphone were incredible additions to the sense of community created here at Thornton Academy. Saco and its citizens are fortunate to have the oral scrapbook of some of its most singular athletic events because of the radio skills of Tom Winston.
2009 - Daniel Donovan '59
Donovan played four years of football, baseball and basketball during his tenure at Thornton Academy, but it is his excellence on the gridiron that stands out the most. He played quarterback on two very talented and successful teams and was one of the main cogs in the split-T offense.
His efforts were recognized by twice being named to the all-state football team and also receiving honorable mention on the 12th Annual National High School All-Star football team. Additionally, he earned a partial scholarship to the University of New Hampshire, where he played for one year. Following a move by his family to South Carolina, Donovan entered Furman University, where he again became a star, earned all-conference accolades, and also picked up the nickname “The Irish Gambler.”
2009 - David Lane '69
At 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds, Lane likely did not strike fear into his opponents during pre-game warm-ups. That all changed, however, once the game started and he got the ball in his hands. Using his phenomenal speed and quickness, he dominated over the rest of the league. Lane often times had the option of either running or throwing the ball from the quarterback position, and opponents had a hard time stopping both.
Serving under the tutelage of coach, and fellow inductee, Brad Leach, Lane started as a sophomore as a defensive back and both quarterback and defensive back during his junior and senior campaigns. His accomplishments include being named to the 1967 all-state team as a defensive back and to the 1968 all-state team as a quarterback. Coach Leach described his go-to guy as follows: “He was the kind of kid who makes coaches better. In my 30 years at Thornton as a coach and then athletic director, I never saw a better athlete.” Following his career at Thornton Academy, Dave went on to shine at Colby College. Lane is married his high school sweetheart, Martha.
2009 - Bradley Leach '56
A three-sport standout at Thornton Academy in the 1950s, Leach participated in football, basketball, and baseball during an outstanding high school career. A talented running back and receiver, he led the Maroon and Gold to state championships in 1954 and 1955.
In 1954 he was named to the all-state team and was selected as the state’s outstanding performer on the gridiron. During his senior season, he averaged 9.6 yards per carry and was named as an All-American player. Leach was also one of the top schoolboy baseball players in the state during his era. He started for the 1954 Telegram League championship baseball team and was selected as an all-conference pitcher in 1955 and 1956. He led the Owen-Davis American Legion baseball team to state championships in 1954 and 1955 and was the American Legion state tournament most valuable player in 1955. Leach returned to Saco in 1961 to begin a career as a teacher and football coach at Thornton Academy. He served as athletic director from 1971-1992, the longest tenure of any person in that position in school history. In addition he was president of the Southwestern Maine Activities Association in 1988-1989 and was a basketball official for several years. Upon his retirement he serviced the southern Maine area as assignor for the Western Maine Board of Approved Basketball Officials. One of Leach’s students summarized his former coach’s legacy and philosophy as follows. “We learned that sports was not the end-all, but a means to an end, that discipline and hard work were the keys to success in life.” He added, “Brad was a coach in the fullest sense of the word; he was a superb teacher and molder of young men.”
2009 - Joseph Regina '43
Regina was a three-year starter and place kicker for what many consider to be the greatest span of football teams to ever play at Thornton Academy. Joe was a two-way lineman on these teams that carved out an impressive 23-4-1 record. He was named to the all-conference team in 1940, 1941, and 1942 and in 1942 was also selected to the All-Maine team.
Regina’s coach was the legendary George Martin who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008. While at TA Regina also lettered in indoor track and was vice-president of his class for four years. As a player, he was a fierce and accomplished competitor. As a coach, he was a role model for hard work and consistency both on the field and in the classroom. He always stressed the “game of life” to his players: the importance of family; the importance of treating people with respect; and the importance of an education or skill to be successful.
2009 - Joseph Vachon, Sr. '25
Vachon served as captain of the state championship gridiron team in 1924. His prowess, however, is most remembered as a fireball pitcher on the baseball diamond.
Strikeouts were his specialty and nowhere is that fact better demonstrated than in a 14-inning game against Westbrook. In this matchup, Vachon stuck out 20 opponents while going the distance for the Maroon team. At the time, it was heralded as “probably the greatest twirling duel ever staged in the Telegram League.” His success, as described by one writer, could be attributed to “a world of stuff, plenty of speed, a good head and being a trifle wild.” Known as one of York County’s best pitchers of all time, Vachon was previously inducted into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame. Following high school, Vachon served his beloved city of Saco as a policeman and the postmaster and also served as a trustee of Thornton Academy for 30 years.
2009 - Robert Warner, Jr. '72
Warner was a stalwart on the basketball court for Thornton Academy. Playing under the helm of Jeddy Newman, Warner became arguably the best hoopster in TA history.
In his senior campaign, he led the squad to a 14-7 record and earned a berth in the playoffs where the team ended up as Western Maine Class A runners-up. His efforts earned him the George Vinall Trophy for being the Outstanding Player-Sportsman in the Western Maine Class A basketball tournament, a spot on the Bangor Daily News 1st Team All-State selection, and many other accolades. Warner took his skills to Orono to play for the University of Maine under Coach Skip Chappelle. In his senior college season, he was the second leading rebounder in all of Division I. Warner is a Director of Operations in Salem, Mass., for a non-profit organization that supports after school programs in both math and English for disadvantaged children. He and his wife Hanna have a daughter named Isabel.
2008 - Fred Arno ‘45
Entering Thornton Academy in the fall of 1941, Fred Arno began his athletic career in a rush. Fred received his first letter playing left halfback on the varsity football team that fall. He earned his second letter shortly thereafter by competing on the indoor track team running the 40 yard dash, 300 yard run, high jump and relay.
He also competed in outdoor track in the 100 and 200 yard sprints, as well as shot put, javelin, discuss and relay. As a sophomore Fred earned letters in basketball and baseball. In 1943 he was a member of the varsity basketball team that won the York County Championship. Off the field, Fred was president of his class for three years. At the end of his junior year, in April of 1944, Fred enlisted in the Marine Corps and left for World War II. Returning to Saco in 1946, Fred graduated from Thornton with the Class of 1947. Fred attended Springfield College and earned BS and MA degrees, and worked in human resource management for various electronics companies in the Boston area.
2008 - Amy Belliveau ‘75
With the help of Title IX, female sports started to evolve in the 1970s. At the forefront of this campaign for Thornton Academy was a three sport athlete, Amy Belliveau. In field hockey, Amy was an outstanding offensive threat and the team’s leading scorer.
In 1974, she scored 12 goals when her team was crowned the Southwestern Maine Champions with a record of 9-1-1. On the basketball court, Amy lead the team to a number one ranking in the first ever Western Maine Tournament for girls. That year, she scored 291 points and pulled down an impressive 169 rebounds. As a former teammate, Karen Reardon noted, “Amy was fast, strong and agile. She had a true jump shot and was an intimidating force on defense. If they had All State Teams for girls at that time, Amy would have been on the team and quite possibly the season MVP, as we know them today.” In track, Amy was a sprinter and a thrower. Running on a cinder track at the University of Maine in Orono at the state meet, she was the anchor leg on the 1975 state championship 440 relay team along with Laurie Scott Scamman, Diane Jamieson Fenderson and Diana Grant Walker. Amy’s natural ability and hard work helped her to become one of the first in a growing tradition of excellent female athletes here at Thornton Academy.
2008 - Philip Curtis, Coach and Athletic Director
During his 31 years at Thornton Academy, Phil Curtis was a versatile and wide-ranging coach, for a wide variety of sports, both boys and girls, in addition to serving as athletic director and teaching math. Phil served as freshman football coach from 1962 through 1966 and again in 1969.
Phil also served as the varsity baseball coach from 1963 through 1975, leading the team to a Telegram League Championship in 1963. Phil served as Athletic Director in 1970-1971. Curtis coached the girls basketball team in 1973 and remained at that position through 1981. During those years Thornton made the playoffs in all but one year and made it to the Western Maine finals twice. He was named Coach of the year for Western Maine in 1981. During his tenure at Thornton, Phil also coached the varsity boys tennis team, the junior varsity boys basketball team as well as a variety of summer recreational programs. Phil coached 40 seasons at Thornton Academy and had an estimated 250 wins.
2008 - George Martin, Coach
Thornton Academy reigned as one of the top football teams in the state during the nine-year tenure of George Martin. With Martin at the helm from 1935 to 1943, TA won 70 games, lost only nine, and tied seven times.
TA won four state titles under his watch. Martin’s teams were noted to be prolific on offense and stingy on defense – Thornton racked up 1,884 points, nearly six times as many as their opponents’ 316 points. George Martin, with the help of his lucky hat, led TA to victory over Biddeford eight times with one tie, outscoring the rival team 198 to 12 in nine games. Because TA did not have a mascot at that time, the team during these years was some times referred to as the "Martinmen."
2008 - Terrence McSweeney ‘38
While at Thornton Academy, Terry “Touchdown” McSweeney was an all-around athlete. He earned an amazing 14 varsity letters. While he’s most prominently known as a football player, he also excelled on the baseball diamond and the basketball court for four years and served as the captain of both the baseball and basketball teams his senior year.
Additionally, he was a mainstay on the relay teams for the track and field squads during his freshman and sophomore years. In an article summarizing his most successful gridiron game, a battle against Deering High, the following description was given, “It was a broth of a boy named Terrence McSweeney who led the Sacoites to their overwhelming conquest by scoring four touchdowns in a brilliant exhibition of running and pass receiving.” It should be noted that this was done in an era of football where there was little scoring. In 1937, Terry was a first team all-conference and second team all-state running back. Terry joins his fellow teammates Charlie Mistos and Swede Anderson who have previously been inducted along with his coach, George Martin, who was also inducted this year.
2008 - Roger Spaulding ‘56
At 5’8” and 155 pounds, Roger Spaulding dominated in the athletic arena with his speed and quickness. In his junior campaign, Spaulding’s football team was undefeated at 10-0 and outscored opponents 299-39. The team’s success continued in his senior year as the Trojan eleven went undefeated again and repeated as state champions.
Roger shared backfield duties with Brad Leach and Norman Hirst while Ralph Tarbox handled the quarterback position. One newspaper article offers this reflection of Roger’s talent, “In the way of statistics, Captain Roger Spaulding was the star, averaging 10 yards in 57 carries. He completed 8 of 10 passes with a net gain of 303 yards on the 10 throws.” He was the leading scorer in Maine in 1954 and made the all-conference team two years in a row. Roger was also the recipient of the Tom McCann Trophy which was given to the most valuable high school player in Maine. Roger ranks number 6 on Thornton’s all-time scorer list. His accomplishments were no less astounding on the baseball field where he was named to the All-Telegram League team and was the Telegram League batting champ in 1955. In the last game of the 1954 season, Roger led the way on offense as he scored two runs and stole four bases, including home plate, as the team won the Telegram League championship. According to Dave Kerry, who was one year behind Roger at Thornton, “He was one of the finest athletes ever to come out of the State of Maine.” Roger continued his career playing two seasons of football at Iowa State, then began a family with his wife Louise and pursued many different occupations. Roger passed away in 2001.
2007 - Richard H. Grant, Class of 1954
Dick Grant starred in both baseball and basketball star. He was a captain of the basketball team for Coach Francis Mear in his senior year and was consistently one of the top scorers in the box score. Grant was also captain of the baseball team in his junior and senior years and was a three-time All Telegram Team pitcher. He pitched in the longest baseball game in TA history, a 16 inning affair vs. Portland's Willy Greenlaw, a game that Thornton lost 1-0. He also once struck out 19 batters in a 13 inning game against South Portland.
Those are just two of the many memorable pitching outings during his career at TA. Legend has it that he threw the ball so hard, he forced his catcher, Don Lester, to resort to using a piece of steak to help minimize the sting in his hands.One reporter wrote: "The local Chamber of Commerce owes Dick Grant, Thornton Academy pitcher, a note of thanks. Local hotels and restaurants have reaped a handsome reward from the Thornton youngster's baseball talent for there have been as many as five scouts in town simultaneously and their expenses add up." After graduation, he began his professional career in the Chicago White Sox organization by heading to Edmunston, New Brunswick, Canada before settling back here in Saco for many, many years.
2007 - Donald D. Lester, Class of 1953
During his years at Thornton Academy, Don Lester excelled in football as a halfback, in baseball as a catcher and in basketball as a guard and forward.
During the 1952 baseball season, his junior year, he was crowned Telegram League batting champion as he batted .400 with 26 hits - 23 of which were singles - in 65 at bats. The team's record that year was 10-6; it tied for first place in the Telegram League and made it to the state tournament.
Lester was named to the All-Telegram League as a catcher both in his junior and senior years and is arguably the best catcher in Thornton's history. The day after graduation from Thornton Academy, he joined the Marine Corps, but later came back and settled in Saco and was active in the community, including serving on the town council.
2007 - Hilary F. Mahaney, Class of 1921
As an athlete at Thornton Academy, Mahaney was a center on the basketball team and a first baseman on the baseball team. But his athletic excellence was mostly displayed on the gridiron. Mahaney was a captain of the football team in his senior year and a member of three prep school state football championship teams. He was an All-Conference fullback for two years and was named to the All-State team his senior year.
After graduating from Thornton, Mahaney continued his football career at Holy Cross as a right end. Eventually, he became a captain of the football team at Holy Cross and was named to numerous All-American and All-East teams, one of which was Liberty magazine's All-America Football Team along with Red Grange of Illinois. In the early 50's, he was selected to the Boston Post All-Time All-America team along with, among others, Jim Thorpe, Red Grange, George Gipp, and Doc Blanchard.
Mahaney went on to Boston University Law School and was assistant coach while in school there and head coach for the 1930 and 1931 seasons. He later returned to Saco where he was an attorney and later a municipal judge. He continued his love of football by officiating Southwestern Maine high school games for many seasons. Mahaney passed away in 1969.
2007 - Robert E. McAvoy, Class of 1946
McAvoy was twice selected to the all-state football team as an end in 1944 and 1945. After playing 2 ½ years as an end, he took his talents to the backfield. In one 1944 newspaper article, he is described as follows: "Bob McAvoy's end play against Portland Saturday afternoon at the Stadium was as good as any we have seen this year. The big Maroon end turned back everything directed at his flank, and he did a fine job on offense, too. He is as good, if not the best, wingman we have looked at this year."
McAvoy was also a starter on the varsity basketball team his junior and senior years. Additionally, he starred on the 1945 and 1946 track teams, especially in the high and low hurdles, including a win in the Portsmouth Clipper Relays in which 13 schools from four New England states competed.
After leaving Thornton, Bob spent one year playing football at Michigan State, but transferred to Bowdoin College where he was named to the Little All-American team in 1949 under Bowdoin's storied coach Adam Walsh. McAvoy enjoyed a long career as a leader in the paper industry, eventually becoming the first native Maine president of S.D. Warren.
2007 - James McGaffin, Coach and Athletic Director
Jim McGaffin began his career at Thornton in 1956 as head baseball coach, assistant football coach and assistant basketball coach. After one year, he became head basketball coach and coached for 15 year, from 1956 until 1970. At a school with a reputation as a football school, he was instrumental in putting basketball on the map. The basketball team hadn't been to the state playoff tournament for 12 years; after McGaffin took over, the team went five of his first six years and nine out of the next 13 years.
As a jack of all trades athletic director, McGaffin's duties included scheduling, mentoring, selling tickets, and mopping floors. When basketball games outgrew Emery Gymnasium, and before the construction of Linnell Gymnasium, he took his teams to various venues to play their games in order to accommodate the crowds that followed the team. His teams were often referred to as the aptly named "orphans."
McGaffin served for more than 27 years at TA, more than half as submaster. In a newspaper article covering his retirement, one of his former players had this comment: "I think he instilled in those who played for him a feeling of respect for the system and the meaning of playing on a team, and those things are valuable."
2007 - Robert E. Tims, Class of 1953
Also known as "Big Bob"and "Red" Tims was nominated by three different people for this award. His distinguished career at Thornton began during his freshman year as he was quarterback of the undefeated and untied football team. Later that year, he was chosen as the MVP of the York County Freshman Basketball Tournament. In his junior and senior years, Red lettered in football, baseball, basketball and track.
He received honorable mention in the Fifth Annual National High School All-America Football Team and was invited to play in the Fifthth Annual High School Blue/Gray game in Memphis, Tenn., a game in which Bart Starr was the first team quarterback. In his senior year, on a football team which, at the time, set the State of Maine scoring record and had total yardage of 4,058 yards, Tims had 1,285 total yards and was selected All-American honorable mention by Scholastic Coach magazine.
He was twice selected to the All-Telegram League team for his efforts on the baseball diamond and also won a Golden Glove. In his junior year, Tims was the only player in the Telegram League to hit safely in every game. Additionally, he was the captain and high scorer on the basketball team. Although offered a scholarship to play football at Yale, Red chose an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy instead.
2006 - Lloyd "Swede" Anderson '39
Anderson played fullback and was part of the all-Conference team as both a junior and senior. He was part of the All-State team as a senior. In addition, he ran track all four years of high school.
2006 - Henry "Hank" LaVallee ’25
Known as the “Kid,” LaVallee was quarterback of two championship football teams in 1923 and 1924. He was also a star baseball player and showed his talent on the second team of the Portland Telegram League All-Maine Team.
2006 - Charles Mistos ’37
Mistos played three sports all four years of high school: football, basketball and baseball. He was named to All-State and was batting champion in the telegram League in 1936 as well as an ace pitcher on 1937 Telegram League Team. After graduating from TA, he played for the Altlanta George Crackers and in Biddeford-Saco’s twilight league.
2006 - George Pendleton '48
Pendleton was a three season athlete all four years of high school in football, basketball and baseball. He was named to the All-American football squad in his senior year. We think he was Maine’s first high school player so named. He was named to the All-Maine team in football.
2006 - 1914 Girls Basketball Team
The team was named league champions in 1914 when most schools did not have many athletic opportunities for boys much less girls. The players were Isabelle Alexander, Helene Buker, Florence Grace, Helen Lawrence, Marion Lowell and Magdalena Walker. The team captain was Meribah Keefe.
2006 - 1920-21 Boys Basketball Team
TA’s first and only state championship was captured by this team. The players were Justin Seavey, Lawrence Graves, Albert Hanson, Edgar Roger, Leo Joncas, Wesley Seavey, Frederick Shields, Hilary Mahaney, Kenneth Lord, Donald Skillings and Harry Mapes.