Kyle Rowley takes over Armada football program

Following a successful six-year stint with the Hazel Park Vikings, Kyle Rowley will coach a bit closer to home, with the Armada Tigers, in 2020.

Kyle Rowley

A 2004 Oxford High School graduate, Rowley, 34, starred for the Wildcats for three years at quarterback and safety, earning First-Team All-State recognition at the Division II level from the Detroit Free Press as a senior.
Walking on at Michigan State, he played two years for the Spartans under then-head coach John L. Smith but was forced to undergo multiple knee surgeries. He ultimately worked his way back from these procedures and played another two seasons for the Saginaw Valley State Cardinals under Randy Awrey and Jim Collins.
Once his playing days concluded, Rowley returned to Oxford and joined his father, Bud Rowley’s, staff for four years, coaching quarterbacks and defensive backs. Hazel Park was on the heels of an 0-9 (0-7 Oakland Activities Association Blue) campaign and battling dwindling enrollment in their school district — it is safe to say the job had its share of challenges entering the 2014 season.
While these red flags may have scared off other candidates, it was exactly the opportunity the then-28-year-old Rowley was looking for.
“I knew I had my work cut out for me, but that’s kind of what I wanted, too,” he shared. “I wanted to embrace the struggle, because if you walk into a program that’s already built, you don’t really know what you are made of and you kind of wonder, ‘Was this me or the person before me?’ It was the type of situation I wanted. I wanted to build something from the ground up.”
By the time Rowley’s fourth season at the helm rolled around in 2017, the Vikings were beginning to turn the corner in their rebuild.
“Each year, we had to get better. We had to show progress,” he explained. “In years one, two and three (at Hazel Park), we weren’t that good based on our record, but there was progress.
“By the time year four came around, we were a pretty good team. Played Warren Woods Towers in the playoffs, it was good stuff. Even the last two years, we were 4-5 but it was a competitive 4-5. Two years ago, we lost two games by a total of six points and this past year, a touchdown here and there, and we would’ve been in the playoffs again.”
The Vikings very nearly qualified for the postseason again in 2019 despite adjusting to life in a new conference. After more than two decades in the OAA, the school joined the Macomb Area Conference (MAC) in all athletic activities.
“I would say the competition is very comparable,” Rowley said of the transition. “The biggest thing was the unfamiliarity with the new schools. In the OAA Blue, we had film on all the other teams and had played them for years.
“So, that uncertainty can kind of get you a bit. But, I thought 4-5 for our first year in the league was not too bad.”
Successfully showing he can take a program from the bottom of the standings and turn them into a contender, Rowley will now try to duplicate and improve upon his successes at Armada.
“It’s a great community,” he said of what drew him to the Tigers. “The people are really excited about Armada High School and they’re really excited about the football program.
“There’s a lot of support. So, while they haven’t won state championships or had a history of deep playoff runs, all the interest, support and excitement around the program can help us build some things, put some things in place, and I think we can be pretty darn good.
“If you walk through these hallways, there is some serious talent. There is some serious upside to Armada.”
During his time with Hazel Park, Rowley’s teams developed a reputation for strong running games and the ability to hurt you with the quick pass, as well. Relying on his unique combination of youth and experience, he doesn’t try to fit the personnel to his scheme, but instead tries to get the football to his playmakers in space.
“Every coach has their tendencies,” he began. “But you must fit it (your offensive scheme) to the personnel you have.
“For us, right now, we’re going to be working on getting in the weight room, taking care of our conditioning, taking care of our bodies and taking care of it in the classroom. Once we get into some more football-related activities over the summer, we’ll get a much better idea of what we can and can’t do. I think that’s the smart approach.”
In addition to the increased support around the Armada program, Rowley’s move to the Blue Water Area Conference (BWAC) checked the personal boxes he was looking for.
“I had been wanting to get back north for a while,” he shared. “Get back closer to my parents; plus, living in the city can be loud and crazy, when you come out in the country, it’s nice and quiet.”
One of Rowley’s first moves after the agreement with the Tigers became official was to bring along his father, Oxford legend Bud Rowley, as his new offensive and defensive line coach. Bud stepped down as the Wildcats’ head coach following the 2019 season after four-and-a-half decades on the job.
“I knew he still wanted to coach, so this was a good opportunity,” Kyle said of how this role reversal came to be.
“Why wouldn’t you want to have one of the best coaches to ever do it in the state of Michigan on your staff? Obviously, there will probably be some growing pains because this will be new for both of us, but we’ve always played for the same team.
“Even when we butt heads, it comes from a good place. So, I think we’ll be fine. I can tell you this, though, our offensive and defensive lines are going to be tough, he knows what he’s doing.”
Armada finished the 2019 season at 4-5 (2-5 BWAC). This was a two-win improvement over their 2018 mark of 2-7 (1-5), but the program hasn’t posted a winning record since 2012.
Fortunately, it looks like they hired exactly the right man for the job.

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