The Smithfield Raiders Football Team

Smithfield Raiders

By Peg Brown


     The catalyst for this story is Sandra Achille, curator of the Smith-Appleby House, who received a recent donation of several historic Raiders photographs from former Raiders, including Bill Gardiner, among others. As she set up the display in the Town Room of the house, she remembered that some other memorabilia were stored in the archives. She uncovered several Raiders jackets, sweaters and other gear that had been donated by Melissa DeMeo when cleaning out her mother’s attic in Greenville. Melissa asked where these “lovingly preserved” items of her brother could find a new home. These seemingly unrelated events resulted in the Smithfield Times bringing together Bill and Charles “Buddy” Balfour, founder of the league—and this story of how a community galvanized around a pre-teen football program unfolded.


     The Smithfield Times intends this to be a two-part article with a second installment in the August issue. Recognizing the unique community involvement by hundreds or our Smithfield residents, we invite you to contact the author, Peg Brown, at, to share your Raiders stories, anecdotes, memories and lessons learned that will be featured in August. If you have memorabilia you’d like to share, we would be delighted if you would let us know.

     ARTICLE Headline

     The Eagles Are Dead…Hail To The New Champions!…The Smithfield Raiders (The Observer, Thursday, November 17, 1966)

     The iconic ProJo sports writer, Bill Reynolds, once wrote: “If you’re looking for purity in college sports, go look in Division III…”

     If Reynolds had been covering what was happening in Smithfield for boys 9-12 over a decade during the 1960s and 1970s, he might have made similar remarks about purity in youth sports. The Smithfield Raiders, conceived, promoted, funded and energized almost exclusively by founder Charles “Buddy” Balfour, quickly engaged an entire community with a single focus: “Teaching the boys the fundamentals of football, developing leadership, sportsmanship and character in boys.” Core to Buddy’s philosophy was the issue of character development through discipline and the impact community pride can have on our youth.

     And the Raiders was not just about young boys. As the program developed, over 15 coaches were involved. Cheering the teams on were the Raiderettes, both “varsity and junior” squads (coached by Ann McKinley), a pep squad, a Woman’s Auxiliary, and a board of directors. The community was mobilized by Buddy’s commitment and vision.

     When he first put out the call for participants, he envisioned perhaps 10 or 20 would show up at Burgess Field for try-outs. Over 100 eventually vied for their chance to play. The turn out resulted in an A and B team, and several teams, such as the Georgiaville Jets and the Esmond Eagles, who played each other within Smithfield, giving everyone of whatever talent level the opportunity to be part of the Raiders family.

     At the time Buddy began the program, he was working as a pressman at the Providence Journal making a very modest salary—a salary he invested almost exclusively in supporting the growth of the Raiders program. He mentioned that in the early days, they “lit” Burgess Field with the assistance of his father who mounted a few bulbs on pieces of plywood which, when coupled with parents willing to leave their car lights on, allowed an “under the lights experience.”

     As the program and excitement evolved, food trucks appeared at games. Buddy recalls that his mother ran the first concession and his father collected tickets at the gate. Buddy made a deal to buy shoes which he sold out of his basement for $5 a pair so that the teams could have a uniform look. He borrowed helmets from surrounding football teams, and began raising money to provide the first-class look to his teams, his cheerleaders, and his players, many of whom didn’t have the resources for gear. When his team won the State Championship in 1966, he bought the entire team champion jackets, one of those donated to Smith-Appleby by Melissa DeMeo.

     The boys sold Readers’ Digests and other products, and Buddy and volunteers lined the fields, held practices three nights a week, double on Saturday. Special plays such as the Statue of Liberty and the 27 Slant were developed that led to many victories on the field. But win or lose, parties were held after every game in Buddy’s back yard for players and their parents.

     The Raiders team in 1968 had a special experience, arranged by Buddy who had a personal relationship with Leo Flynn of the Levittown Long Island Red Devils. In December the boys and their coaches boarded a bus bound for New York City. While the Raiders lost the game 19-7, their weekend stay with host families and tours of the Big Apple were the life experiences Buddy felt were so important to developing self-confidence and an independent spirit.

     Make no mistake. If you were a Raider, you followed the rules. Buddy had no problem in telling those who couldn’t follow the rules to essentially “take a hike over the nearest hill.” But in leaving, a former Raider was clearly giving up the many role models that the program provided.

     The games evolved into major community events. Homecomings were held annually, and a newspaper article in the archives indicates that “Miss Robin Marshall of Johnston, age 11 was crowed Homecoming Queen and presented with appropriate awards.” At the same game, there was also a band and “the large crowd was entertained by Miss Donna-Marie Muenzel of Warwick, one of New England’s top baton twirlers.” It was also in this game against Woonsocket that the Raiders were so far ahead “Coach Bud Balfour and staff used all of their players to give them the much-needed experience that only come from actual game play.” Again, sportsmanship reinforced.

     The program also received state recognition. In 1969 Lt. Governor J. Joseph Garrahy present a trophy to Buddy at a club 44 testimonial dinner attended by over 200 in recognition of his founding of the program in the early 1960s. As the newspaper reported, at the beginning of the program, “only thirteen boys came out for the team that now boasted 45 players, fifteen cheerleaders and a forty-member cheering section.” By 1969 the team had compiled a record of 33 league victories, four Division Championships, tied one and won the State Championship. In 1969 boosters were operating a concession stand, arranging homecomings, soliciting support for program ads to fund the program, had a formal publicity program and secured transportation. The Smithfield Fire Department, the Jaycees, Lions, Police Department, Town Council, Elks, and School Department also supported their seasons. Dr. Marz served as team physician. And Buddy, a graduate of North Providence High School, was just 27, married with two daughters, leading the Raiders growth.

     In 1967 The General Assembly issued a resolution congratulating Buddy and the Raiders not only for their 1966 State Championship, but “for encouraging organized and supervised sports program for the youth of the state.”

     Buddy will also tell you that there are certainly “Rhode Island stories” to be told. Such as how a pizzeria that didn’t open on Sundays could suddenly produce 50 pizzas with any toppings needed for that day—or how a few steak sandwiches and some liquid libation miraculously resulted in Barry Field being wired and professionally lit over just one weekend.

     But the important stories lie with you, our readers. Most of those involved with the Raiders are approaching retirement, and few young people probably have never heard of the Raiders. And that’s why we invite you to tell us for the next issue about your memories and life lessons learned by being part of this community-centered decade of competition, cooperation and local pride.

     Click here to see photos of the Smithfield Raiders.

    For Uniform Photos, Click Here

     Author’s Note:

     I purposely didn’t name individual members of the teams, because as Buddy indicated there must be close to 1,000. Please share your story with us. While it might not have been Camelot, it was a very special era in Smithfield history.

Smithfield Raiders Team Photos

Click on images to enlarge.


December, 1968

Smithfield Raiders 1964

Smithfield Raiders 1966

Smithfield Raiders Uniforms


Smithfield Raiders Football Uniforms – 1960s

The Smithfield Raiders was a pre-teen football team in Smithfield, R. I.. 

Click on images to enlarge.

Team Photos

Team Photo 1964

Team Photo 1966



50 Years Ago – October, 1971

50 years Ago – October, 1971

     Technical Sergeant Alonzo F. Thurber was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal for outstanding work while serving at Hof Air Force base in Germany.

     Air Force Second Lieutenant Harry L. Latham entered pilot training.

     William R. Couture of Greenville was promoted to Staff Sergeant while serving in the United States Air Force Tactical Air Command.

     Navy seaman George J. Gilmore of Greenville was serving aboard the tanker ship U.S.S. Milwaukee.

     Navy airman David R. Young of Greenville was serving aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Intrepid.

     Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, officially opened to the public at 10:00 a.m. on October 1. Ten-thousand people attended the first day. In 1971, the price for a one day park pass was $3.50.

     15-year-old Jack McBride of Pleasant View Avenue was promoted to Eagle Scout. He was a member of Troop 4 in Greenville.

     Dancing classes, sponsored by the Smithfield Recreation Department, were begun. The classes, taught by Miss Karen Proulx, included tap, jazz, and ballet.

     On October 6, the Cranford Club of Greenville, hosted a party for patients at Zambarano Hospital in Burrillville. The Cranford Club was a charitable civic organization established in 1905.

     A “Punt, Pass, and Kick” competition, open to all boys ages 8 through 13, was held at the Smithfield High School. The event was sponsored by Notorantonio Ford and the Smithfield Jaycees. The winners in each age category were: John Germano, Kenneth Albanese, Greg Williams, Mike Tartaglia, Douglas Hanson, and Edward Gauthier. They went on to compete in an area wide championship held in Cranston.

     The Smithfield Raiders football team took first place in the American Conference of Rhode Island Pre-teen Football League by beating the North Providence Jets 30 – 0.

     Smithfield High School held its annual Homecoming event and twelve local students were nominated for Homecoming Queen. They were; Mary Provonsil, Julie Guidone, Kathy Wright, Diane Guglielmino, Paula Commendatore, Debbie Christiansen, Ellen Provonsil, Anne Short, Karen Henriksen, Geraldine DiSteffano, Debbie Cerrone, and Diane Hudson.

     Geraldine DiSteffano was crowned the queen.

     The Stonehenge Apartments in Greenville were opened for rental. An advertisement read, “Giving a home like feeling rather than apartment living.” (No children – no pets.)

     Rhode Island’s Governor Frank Licht issued a proclamation naming October 7 – 16 National Apple Week.

     A local Chevrolet dealership was offering a 1969 Chevelle Sport Coupe with a sliver and blue exterior and deep blue interior, equipped with a V-8 engine, power steering, and four new tires, all for $1,895. The same car today, restored, sells in the neighborhood of $40,000.

     On October 23 – 24, the “Apple Valley Gem and Mineral Show”, sponsored by the Rhode Island Mineral Hunters Club, was held at Anna McCabe School.

     It was also on October 23rd that a genuine “German Bierfest” sponsored by the Smithfield mental Health Association was held at Waterman’s Lake. The event featured authentic German food and music.

     Smithfield received an $11,000 grant from the Rhode Island Conservation Commission to go towards the purchase of a 43.7 acre parcel of land on Old Forge Road to be used for open space and recreational purposes. This was a matching grant, which means the town had to contribute the same amount to bring the total cost up to $22,000. The land had been owned by Burton and Mary Mowry, who’d agreed to sell.

     Today the property is known as the Mowry Conservation Area and features a picnic area, a brook, and walking trails.

     The road gets its name because of an 18th century iron forge that once existed there. It is said that the forge produced cannons for the Revolutionary War.

     On October 24th, students of Mrs. Helen Taubman gave a piano recital at the Greenville Library. They were: Lisa Clemence, Susan Waradzin, Lynda Buckley, and Patti Monahan.

     On October 30 – 31, the public was invited, (for a “reasonable price”), to ride in an “Air-Cycle” at Brush’s Field at Waterman’s Lake. An Air-cycle was a type of hover craft that floated a few inches off the ground and could be used in rough terrain and on water.

50 Years Ago – September, 1968

50 Years Ago – September, 1968

     Incoming freshmen at Bryant College were invited to a “down on the farm’ barbeque at “Memory Hill”, the future site of the Bryant Unistructure. Students were introduced to faculty and administrators. These students would graduate in 1972, the year the Smithfield campus opened.

     Army Specialist James J. Motta of Georgiaville was discharged from the army after completion of his service in Vietnam.

     Staff Sergeant David M. Balfour Jr. of Esmond was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal for meritorious service as a crew chief aboard an F-4C aircraft in Vietnam.

     Angus Bryant of Mountaindale Road completed his tour of duty in the U.S. Air Force.

     Army Specialist John M. Cullen of Greenville was serving in Vietnam.

     Airman Jeffrey R. Sweet of Greenville completed basic training for the U.S. Air Force, and would be assigned to Logistics Command at Chanute Air Base in Illinois.

     Seaman Apprentice Ernest F. Littlerick, Jr. of Greenville completed basic training for the U.S. Navy.

     A carnival to benefit muscular dystrophy was held at 103 Dean Avenue in Esmond by Karen Shea, Joann Cunningham, Jeris and Cheryl Noducci, Kathy Wyatt, Polly and Marie Parsakian, and Bill Kerwin. A total of $48 was raised.

     The Maplewoods neighborhood in Greenville was still under development. A two-story garrison colonial on Peach Blossom Lane was advertised at $25,600. The home featured a two-car garage, fire place, 1.5 baths, and a walk out basement.

     Speaking of construction, two Greenville youths, Robert Lyons and Donald Morse, built a five story tall tree house behind a home on Beverly Circle. A photo was featured in a local newspaper.  

     In September of 1968, the television shows 60 Minutes, Adam-12, Julia, and Hawaii Five-O aired for the first time.    

     On September 15 the Smithfield Raiders pre-teen football team went to North Attleborough to play the Plainville Packers. The Raiders won, 27 to 13.  

     On September 17 the St. Michael’s Ave Marie Guild elected new officers. President: Mrs. Rose Farnsworth, Vice President: Mrs. Jemny Arruda, Recording Secretary: Mrs. Ann Tobin, Treasurer: Mrs. Joanne Serapiglia, Corresponding Secretary: Mrs. Marion Drummond.

     On September 18 People’s Bank at the Apple Valley Mall held their grand opening. The public was invited to stop in and receive a free lollypops and balloons, and to register to win a color television. (The TV was won by a couple from North Providence.)

     The bank also offered the choice of “a rugged all purpose lantern”, a wool blanket, or a “handsome” 21-inch plaid suitcase, to anyone who opened a new account.    

     On September 20 Cub Scout Pack 43 of Greenville held a meeting.

     On September 26 the East Smithfield Homemakers held a meeting at the Esmond Recreational Hall.

     On September 28, Smithfield launched a “town wide cleanup” spearheaded by the Conservation Commission. The program was scheduled to run through November 9.

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