Object of the Day

American Football in Panama

In honor of Friday and the weekend, we are posting a photograph of a high school football team found in our collection. We are looking to expand our knowledge about this photograph and American football in Panama.

IMGDoes anyone recognize what school this football team plays for? Do you know the players’ names? What year was this image was taken? Where was this image taken?
Are the players practicing or playing a game? Is this their field?

Did you or anyone you know play American football in Panama? Did you attend the games?

If you have any information about this image or any experiences with American football in Panama, please share with us in the comments section!


  • Joanne Steiner Robinson

    Blue and gold looks like Christobal High School colors. Check with Dorn Thomas he was an outstanding football star.

  • Laura (Daugherty) McConkey

    My dad and his brother both played football at Cristobal High School. My dad, Jerry Daugherty, graduated in 1950, and his brother Denny was a sophomore then. My grandfather, Laurence (Larry) Daugherty worked on the Canal from the time my dad was about 13 until 1949. My dad stayed on with friends to finish his senior year.

    • Anthony Humphries

      I played for the Clayton Cowboys in 1979 and 1980. We won the Panamanian football title in 1980 by upset over Balboa. Rain and football man I loved them days.

  • Kelly Karst

    This looks to me more like Green and Yellow which is the “Green Devils” colors. The setting looks like the field at Curundu Junior High.

  • Jim

    The uniform colors are for the Green Devils, that practiced at Panama Canal College, but if this is not Curundu’s field it may be a more recent team for the Panama American Football league. We played games for a couple of years in the afternoons at Curundu’s field when the high school field was being repaired toward the late 90’s. I coached for the Green Devils as Louis Husted’s assistant, but I can’t recognize any of these players. Football was always very big in the Canal Zone and later under the DoDDS Schools. We had a variety of ways we organized the league, some very strange, but lots of kids played from youth to college age and beyond at some times. At the height of the football era, which only began in the late 1940’s with the founding of tackle football by Coach Fawcett at BHS and Coach Palumbo at CHS, we had as many as six teams, CHS Tigers, BHS Bulldogs, BHS Red Machine, PCC Green Devils, and Curundu Cougars, and sometimes a club team, the Kolts, from Panama. The league changed over time with the closing of CHS, entry or withdrawal of Panama teams, rules changing who could play, etc.
    If this is actually a Green Devil game at Curundu Field it would have been in the very late 90’s, perhaps 1997 or so, when they dropped the Bulldog team, and added a Panama club team and only allowed BHS students to play for the remaining three high school teams, all made up of BHS students. The College developed their own league, eventually adding teams from the Panama universities under the leadership of Ernie Holland, who was a former CZC and Bulldog coach and was the last Dean at the College. Toward the last season there was only one team at BHS and they played club teams from Panama and had a home and home agreement with Antilles High School in Puerto Rico. Now Panama continues to play its own football for a variety of age groups and I think even for girls, so the sport stuck after the influence of the US schools.
    Another program was the youth football. Jerry Dare was big in starting that. The Rams were Balboa’s youth team. At one time it was a huge program with three levels, light weight, middle weight, and heavy weight. Most players were from age ten to 15. There were also teams from Howard, Kobbe, Clayton, Cristobal, Paraiso, Panama Kolts, Albrook, and eventually more teams from Panama. The Rams were usually dominant. High school games were usually on Friday nights and the youth games on Saturdays. Both sets of games drew large crowds. Football season was always a fun part of the school year. These programs all were altered and grew and shrank over the years adjusting to changes in the schools and population. Good to know football stuck and is still going strong after the US left Panama.
    Another possibility is that this is one of the Panama Canal College league teams, as there don’t appear to be 11 players in the huddle and they would also have had to play afternoon games at Curundu Field while the BHS stadium grass was being repaired. The QB doesn’t have the QB number and the huddle looks disorganized, unlike ours, so it could be one of the college teams in Green Devil uniforms. Though it is hard to tell if that is really Curundu and it may be just similar uniforms on Panama teams. For a while the college played less than 11 man football.

    Jim Sweeney coached from 1972 to 1997

    • Joe

      I played for Cristobal in a youth league, we were never really good, but we had a really good time. I do remember Balboa always being dominant, I do remember playing a team from Panama, they had a really rough field, Ended up with some tore knees from that field. Its fun to tell my kids how we rode a train to football games. We lived in Panama from 72 to 76.I liked your comment, just wanted to reply to it.

      Thanks, Joe

  • rafacz99

    The team with green, white and gold is 1997 Green Devils. I am third from left. We had to play some games at the Junior High becsuse the field at Balboa was closed. That pic was during a game. Armando Gundin is far right talking to team in a huddle.

  • Jim

    I recognize Armando now. This might have been the defensive huddle. Those years we had to play afternoon games at Curundu were not the best. The teams got pretty weak compared to when we had four Pacific Side teams that included students from PCC. The population shrank at BHS and we were only allowed to draft students in ninth through twelfth grade from BHS. It was still football but not what it once was. Eventually the Bulldog team was dropped and later all the teams were consolidated under Coach Bales into a single BHS team that played teams from Panama and Antilles from Puerto Rico.
    The best player coming out of those last years in the nineties was Mike Haynes who transferred to New Jersey and later was a successful scholarship player at Penn State, being drafted by the Chicago Bears and playing for them. Armando had to block Mike in drills at PCC for lineman. Mike was so much stronger than the rest of the Green Devil lineman that I had him have to block Armando first, coming out of the chute, then the rest of the team in order of strength. Armando then had to do the same thing. I hope we gave Mike a good background for his success after leaving BHS following his junior year, when the Green Devils won the league. He started for us from ninth grade to his junior year. When we drafted him in ninth grade his shoe size was bigger than his age. He was a starting linebacker in ninth grade, tackle and LB in tenth, and moved to tight end in 11th, and LB, though the other teams rarely ran toward his side, which allowed our small middle linebacker to make lots of tackles. Mike was also the fullback for two point extra point runs. Armando was also a linebacker and guard. Mike also played basketball, ran track, 400, high hurdles, shot put and discus, and played volleyball until he switched to goalie in soccer his junior year.
    We all took football very seriously in Panama, whether we had strong teams dominated by college age players and seniors or had to make do later on with starting ninth graders with little or no football experience as the population shrank at BHS and the new director banned college age players. There were years when teams had as many as 70 players and were able to field JV teams for informal games that were better than the “varsity” teams we fielded at the end of the US era.
    I loved coaching football in Panama and the football season was my favorite time of the school year. So many students were able to enjoy playing on teams and even starting and staring as players that might never had had that experience if they went to a huge high school in the US. We had years when there were five sports seasons, that only overlapped a week or so. Football and girls basketball in the fall, followed by girls soccer, and boys basketball, then track during early dry season and boys tennis, late dry season was girls tennis, swimming and baseball, and the last part of the year was volleyball for boys and girls, and boys soccer. We had one player, Brad Erickson, who went on to play and letter in all five sports his senior year, often making “All Zone”. He did football, where he ran back a touchdown after we got scored on on the kick off, basketball, track, baseball, and volleyball. He played some football after high school at John Hopkins University. Later we had four seasons, Football, cheerleading, and girls basketball; boys basketball, track, and boys tennis; girls tennis, swimming, girls soccer; and volleyball, and boys soccer. My daughter was able to letter in four her senior year, cheerleading, tennis, soccer, and volleyball. The order of sports changed over time and sports were dropped and added at the whim of principals. Once there was varsity golf, dropped to “economize”, saving just a few hundred dollars to drop a year round, lifetime sport. Tennis was dropped much later and replaced with girls softball, which used to be played as a recreational sport in the community. There was also ROTC rifle team.
    Under Dr. Wolf we had a sports advisory committee that met each year, with representatives from each school sponsoring teams: CHS, PCC, BHS, and Curundu, and the principals. I got to represent PCC as I coached several sports there. We figured out the seasons for the up coming school year and how the teams would be organized and what the schedule would look like. It was a good way of getting input to organize the school sports season. Later DoDDS new administrators dropped the committee and things changed arbitrarily by the principals or new directors.
    We kept adjusting the programs to try to make them as interesting as possible in a community with a limited number of schools and smaller and smaller source of players. I think we did out best to make it fun and interesting for the students, players, community and coaches. For the all around sports enthusiast student there were enough opportunities to have a varsity-like experience during their years living near the Canal. Probably more fun for many than the very competitive and selective programs in big schools in the States, yet hard for those bound for college sports to get known and play at a very, very high level. Some of the ways we organized programs would seem very weird to Statesiders, as they seemed to me when I first arrived in the Canal Zone. There was a JV basketball team at the college that played against the team a Curundu Junior High and usually lost. In swimming the junior high and later the middle school girls were always strong, so the high school girls had to try to compete with just one team and it seems the younger girls always won. They would come to the high school and get beat by their younger, sleeker sisters. For our boys we had to split up the team in half and let the junior high use college kids to make it competitive. One year we had it down so well that the final boys relay decided who would win the meet and the season.
    Track at one point had seventh through 14th grades. If you had a bunch of junior high girls and could swamp the events with participants you could have a winning team. At the very end we had afternoon track meets at Curundu and the coaches doubled as officials. BHS had two teams and the Middle School had one. I coached the middle school and we could win the girls meets, but our few sixth to eighth graders could not do very well against the two high school boys teams. Previously track was huge, under Coach Oliver, with big meets, a JV league, night time under the lights events, and a huge Balboa Relays that included military and Panama teams.


  • Panama Raptors

    Moorning, the panama raptors is one of the oldest football team in the mayor league right now. we are looking for some former players to send us pictures and history, our first coach was carlos mckenzie and his brother. the only history that we have is that the team play in the 8 man football league in 1996.
    any info pls, will be great

    Jordi Jean-Francois Raptors #25

  • Panama Raptors

    Moorning, the panama raptors is one of the oldest football team in the mayor league right now. we are looking for some former players to send us pictures and history, our first coach was carlos mckenzie and his brother. the only history that we have is that the team play in the 8 man football league in 1996.
    any info pls, will be great

    Jordi Jean-Francois Raptors #25

  • tony hannah

    Hi. The picture in the rain looks like it could be of the youth league when I lived there (84-87). I think the team in blue would have been the Balboa team and the golden helmets could have been the youth team from the Kiwanis? Not sure. Brings back good memories though. I played for both the Ft. Clayton and Ft. Kobbe teams, then the Balboa Bulldogs.

  • Armando Gundin

    Wow this is a great throwback! Coach Sweeny! Yes that’s me in the Offensive huddle my senior year following our Championship season 1996 Green Devils. Anthony Bibbo was our starting Qb that year and he was injured out for the season early in the game vs Curundu Cougars. (game at CJHS) Remember Coach Husted looking for a back up Qb and he had no option but me his RG/LB to take the helm. Jajaja first drive I had my linemen helmet on I could see a thing! Hey I knew all the plays! So we finished the season with me at Qb.
    Growing up in Panama and playing football for these legendary coaches was special. Thanks to these great coaches we learned about Faith, Hardwork, Discipline, Teamwork, Perseverance, and leadership that helped us become the men we are today. I’m thankful for all that Coach Sweeny and Coach Husted! After Highschool I went to Mass. Maritime Academy, graduated and sailed as U.S. Merchant Marine officer for almost 10 yrs became Captain and I got the opportunity to come back home, I was hired as a Tugboat Captain in the Panama Canal. I coach football now for the Kiwanis Kolts Varsity team as the Offensive coordinator. I do this with great pride, I tell my players the reason I coach them is to give back to them what once was taught to me, these core values, that will help them for the rest of their lives. Every time we score a touchdown at Balboa Stadium I feels special, like this Legacy lives on.
    I also got the opportunity to be coached by Bales, Dalhstrom, Faye, Martinez, Grade, Holland along with Husted and Sweeny on All-star teams that played against Puerto Rico DODDS football teams at Antilles and Buchannan. I was Captian for the this team 3 years, it was an All-star Staff with lots of football knowledge and I’m also thankful for this expierence!

  • John Atencio

    Wow great memories. I played for the Panamanian Canal Greendevils in 1988 under coach Husted and coach Sweeney. Also priveliged to play for Kobe Raiders in the youth league. The football in Panama was the best experience as youth I’ve ever had! Great times!

    John Atencio #43

  • Tony Humphries

    I played for the Fort Clayton Cowboys in 81-82. We won the Panamanian Football Jr League title one year. Lots of mud and tons of fun.

  • Hugo J Cabrera

    This is Green Devils apparently playing at the Curundu field. I played on Green Devils 1991 and 1994…I also played with Cristobal High School 1990, 1992, 1993

  • Dan Bright

    Wow! Yes definitely Green Devils! This takes me back…. I also played on The Raptors (or as they first started at PCC as The Stallions) for the beginning championship seasons.

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