By Teddy Rydquist
Leader Staff Writer
The 2020 season marks the beginning of a new era of Oxford Wildcats football.
After 42 seasons, the last 38 of which consecutively, Bud Rowley stepped down following the 2019 season and has since joined his son, Kyle’s, staff with the Armada Tigers as the program’s offensive and defensive line coach.
To replace Rowley, Oxford elected to turn to one of his most successful pupils, 2008 graduate Zach Line.
Earning first-team All-State honors as a senior, Line rushed for 1,723 yards and 17 touchdowns, good for an average of 172.7 yards per game. His contributions to the 2007 Wildcats were not limited to offense, either, as he led the team with 154 tackles (22.5 for loss) and forced eight fumbles.
Taking his talents to Dallas, Texas, Line, after redshirting in 2008, played for June Jones’ Southern Methodist Mustangs from 2009-12, a member of Conference USA, at the time.
Over the course of 50 games, Line carried the football 778 times for the Mustangs, finishing with the second-most rushing yards in program history at 4,185, just 265 behind Pro Football Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson, and 442 more than the accomplished Craig James.
Signing with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2013, he spent seven years in the National Football League, the last four of which with the New Orleans Saints, where he played for one of the best offensive minds in league history, Sean Payton.
Line’s special teams coach/offensive assistant is another man with extensive NFL experience, 2001 OHS graduate Dave Rayner.
Establishing a single-season Wildcat record with 35 extra points as a senior, Rayner, who was also recruited as a Division I soccer prospect, played for head coaches Bobby Williams and John L. Smith in East Lansing with the Michigan State Spartans from 2001-04.
Ranking second on the Spartans’ all-time list with 62 made field goals, just nine fewer than Brett Swenson’s school record, he was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the sixth-round (No. 202 overall) of the 2005 NFL Draft.
In addition to the Colts, then-coached by Tony Dungy, Rayner saw regular season action with the Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions, the then-Oakland Raiders, and Buffalo Bills.
He joined Rowley’s staff in 2019, meaning this fall will be his second with the program.
17-year veteran Shawn Regan handles Oxford’s quarterbacks, as well as doubling as the defensive backs coach. Another OHS graduate, Regan played for Rowley and walked across the stage in 1990.
On top of his football duties, he also serves as the head coach of the boys’ varsity lacrosse team.
Transitioning to the defensive side of the football, the Wildcats will employ co-defensive coordinators, Matt Call and Ryan
Following a stint with the Rochester Adams Highlanders, Call joined the Oxford staff in 2014 and worked with Dave Brown for the last six seasons, who is now the defensive coordinator and linebackers and quarterbacks coach for the Troy Athens Red Hawks.
Call’s son, Nate, was an All-Oakland Activities Association (OAA) Red wide receiver as a senior last fall. Nate now studies aviation at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.
Clark served on Rowley’s staff in 2004, before departing for two seasons at Lapeer East High School, which merged with Lapeer West in 2014. He returned to Oxford’s program in 2007, head coaching the freshman team for the last 13 years.
Aaron Carpenter, the father of Drew, a 2020 OHS graduate who now plays a hybrid linebacker/safety role for the Northwood Timberwolves in the
Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC), is entering his first season as the junior varsity head coach, as well as continuing to be an assistant at the varsity level.
Carpenter’s other son, Brady, is a junior who is competing for the starting quarterback job. Brady started six games at the position a year ago, splitting time with his brother.
Another multi-sport coach, Carpenter assists Dave Herrick’s varsity baseball program, too, which, unfortunately, had their 2020 season wiped out by the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Carpenter’s defensive coordinator at the junior varsity level will be a new face, 2014 Lake Orion graduate Chris Leigh.
An All-OAA Red honoree for the Dragons as a senior, Leigh played collegiately for the Lehigh Mountain Hawks in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and the Hope Flying Dutchmen in Holland.
In 17 games with the Flying Dutchmen, he totaled 1,333 yards (1,127 rushing and 206 receiving) and 14 scores (11 rushing, two receiving, one kick return). Like Carpenter, Leigh will assist the varsity program, too.
The first game for the 2020 Wildcats is scheduled for Friday, August 28 against the Romeo Bulldogs at home at 7 p.m., the final installment in a seven-year series between the two schools. Romeo handily won the 2019 meeting, 41-14, but the last time these two played at Wildcat Stadium, in 2018, Oxford prevailed, 24-21.
The first road contest will come the following Thursday, September 3, against the Stoney Creek Cougars.