Legendary football matchup
Historic events at Gill Stadium included one very snowy Turkey Day
This is the eighth in a series of articles from the Gill Stadium Centennial Committee leading up to the ballpark's 100-year anniversary celebration on Sept. 8.
THE SPECTATORS at the 1971 Thanksgiving Day football game at Gill Stadium should not have been surprised.
The Union Leader's Wednesday edition forecast a 40 percent probability of snow for Wednesday night. For Thursday, it was "snow likely, with highs 30 to 35." Then on Thursday morning, the front page said "The Weather: Snow, Cold".
Anyone who took the time that morning to turn to Page 2 would have read: "A heavy snow watch is in effect for today, with an expected accumulation of six inches by afternoon. Highs will be in the low to mid 30s."
And then a Sports page headline: "Weather Factor in Grid Battles." C.J. McCarthy began his article with, "Depending on which 'dependable' weatherman you listen to, the forecast for five high school football games varies from a 'light dusting snow' to 'a heavy downfall of from five to eight inches'."
It is apparent that the weather was not important for this annual football classic between the season's two best teams in the city.
And when the two best teams in the city are also the two best teams in the state, the fans will show up.
Manchester Memorial and Trinity took the field to determine the Division I state champion. And Gill Stadium was ready to welcome them.
Then-Trinity coach Dick Powers said advance ticket sales hit 5,000 on Wednesday, with the sales outlet planning to continue selling until 8 p.m. and to re-open at 8 a.m. on Thursday. In addition, the Parks and Recreation crews had been working hard to prepare the turf for the teams.
Would Trinity, as the home team, be expected to wear white jerseys?
In a 1995 Union Leader article, sports writer John Habib said: "I'm still convinced that Memorial had the edge that day wearing their old navy blue jerseys, which allowed (Memorial quarterback Tom) Kathan to spot his receivers."
The cold, windy, snowy game started with more than 7,000 fans in attendance.
Memorial elected to kick. Trinity quarterback Mike Gleason was intercepted on the first play, and Memorial had the ball at the Pioneers' 46, but a stalled drive prompted Kathan to punt to the 2-yard line.
Memorial's Tom Quinn then recovered a Trinity fumble on the 12. After a scoring play was called offside, Kathan sent three receivers down the left side and hit Larry Bournival on the right side of the end zone for a 6-0 lead. Dave Croasdale's extra point attempt was blocked.
The very next play was an 83-yard kickoff return by Trinity's Jim Barden, tying the score. Gary Chartrand's kick failed to cross the uprights.
Here's what followed: an onside kick, a Memorial drive that ended in a fumble recovered by Trinity's Chuck Murray, a Trinity punt, a Memorial drive that ended in a Dave Cote interception, a Trinity punt, and finally a Kathan pass to Gene Brown for a TD. Memorial's two-point pass attempt failed and at halftime, it was 12-6.
Four snow plows, 40 minutes, and 4 inches of snow cleared from the turf later, the second half began, albeit with half the spectators.
Weather conditions had worsened and the teams exchanged interceptions, punts, stalled drives and fumbles.
At one point, a possible first down loomed but the chains could not be used because yard lines were not visible.
On the day, Trinity achieved only one first down. And Memorial held on to win by that 12-6 score.