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1960 London Lords
Born: 1955
Discipline: Football
Years Active: 1956 - 1974
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For 18 years the London Lords senior football teams were an integral part of the local sporting scene.
Girded on by the possibility of one day having a team in the Canadian Football League, the Lords were spawned in 1955 by a spirited community group led for the most part by Ralph Duffus, Gordon Gilbride and Ken Lemon.
That was a heady time for Londoners. A quarterback club for the fans was organized. There would be cheerleaders and marching bands. Both CFPL and CKSL radio stations would broadcast the games. The friendly confines of the venerable Labatt Park, never made for pro football, was transformed into a makeshift stadium. Old pro Indian Jack Jacobs was brought in to serve as player-coach.
The Lords took flight in 1956 playing in the Senior ORFU against Toronto Balmy Beach, Rochester N.Y., Sarnia Golden Bears and the defending champion Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen. It was the Dutchmen who had given the Edmonton Eskimos a spirited tussle in the 1954 Grey Cup semi-final, losing 28- 6. The Esks went on to beat the Montreal Alouettes 26-25 for the Cup with many in the lineup bearing bruises from the Dutchies who showed the tough brand of football played in the Sr. ORFU. Sadly, the semi-final game was dropped by the short-sighted CFL the next season.
The Dutchies would win the ORFU title again in 1956 and 1957 in what can be best described as all-out wars with Jacobs trying to outplay K-W’s mercury-like Bob Celeri. In 1958 and 1959 it was Sarnia taking the championship.
Then in 1960, with former Argo Al Bruno at the helm and the talented Jerry Thompkins at quarterback, the Lords finally reached paydirt by defeating the Detroit-Port Huron Raiders.
The Raiders lineup was dotted with onetime university and college players from the Michigan area. Gus Cifelli, the Notre Dame all-star tackle who was part of the Detroit Lions 1952 championship team, was their head coach. He would later become a Michigan district judge and attorney. He died in 2009 at the age of 84.
Over the regular season the Raiders won three of four meetings with the Lords and Cifelli had them well prepared for the two-game total-point final. In the opener before 2,004 fans in Port Huron Memorial Stadium the Raiders converted two blocked punts and a fumble into scoring plays to win 24-23.
It was a different story in Game 2 before 2,500 at Labatt Park. Running back Bob Fiveash led the fired-up Lords with two touchdowns as they denied Cifelli and the Raiders the opportunity of becoming the first United States team to win a Canadian football league title. The final score was 35-20 giving the Lords the total-points round 58-44.
Thompkins, who would quarterback the Montreal Alouettes the next season, passed to Ernie White and Bob Hanson for the other London TDs. Lamar Lee kicked two field goals, four converts and a single.
The 1960 final marked the end of an era. K-W had folded before the season began and attempts to revive that once proud franchise proved futile. Sarnia and Detroit joined the American Football Conference in 1961. The Lords declined and moved to an Ontario intermediate-calibre league with a homebrew lineup. But the once proud Sr. ORFU was dead, never to be resurrected.
As a reward for bringing the title to London the City honoured the 1960 Lords with a civic dinner. Today the London Sports Hall of Fame is honouring them again by including them as 2011 inductees.