Knights get their due: ’62 city football team sent five players to NCAA

Barry Wright

It took five decades, but the remarkable Sarnia Junior Knights Football Club has been recognized for its 1962 championship run.

The collection of high school stars from Central, Northern, SCITS and St. Patrick’s was inducted recently into the Sarnia Lambton Sports Hall of Fame.

“There was a flood of memories,” said Jerry Stewart, an outside linebacker and flying wing with the Knights.  “Your mind really does take a lot of snapshots.”

Mac Kechnie, a defensive end, said the stars aligned perfectly during ’62 championships.

“There just happened to be a bumper crop of really good football players, and all we wanted to do was play football,” he said.

The Knights downed Windsor for the league championship and knocked off the Toronto-Lakeshore Bears for the provincial crown.

At the Eastern Canadian title game in Montreal, the Knights came up short against the NDG Maple Leafs.

“We didn’t lose that game,” joked Kechnie.  “I like to say that we just ran out of time.”

The Knights’ talent was evident. In fact, five of its players went on to the play NCAA college football in the U.S.

For five Ontario players to be recruited to play south of the border in the 1960’s was one thing. Having five players recruited from just one team by NCAA schools was “pretty significant,” Stewart said.

Lineman Jack Craig played at the University of Michigan and Northern Michigan, running back Dave Fleet and lineman Al Ische both played at Northern Michigan, fullback Gene Lakusiak played at the University of Tulsa and quarterback Dick Waring played at Bowling Green University and the University of Detroit.

Fleet was named Little All-American, Waring was drafted by the Ottawa Rough Riders, while Ische played six seasons in the CFL with Edmonton and Lakusiak played eight seasons in the Canadian League with Winnipeg and Ottawa.

The Knights made it to the provincial final the following season as well, but lost to the Toronto-Lakeshore Bears in the title game.

As for how the game has changed the past 50 plus years, Kechnie was matter-of-fact.

“The players are bigger, faster, stronger,” he said.

Kechnie said he played defensive end at 190 lbs., and Stewart was a linebacker at 160 lbs.