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Rayner breaks Lions' losing streak

Lions player and Oxford native Dave Rayner celebrates his winning kick. (click for larger version)
December 22, 2010 - The Detroit Lions on-the-road losing streak is finally over thanks to the right foot of former Oxford High School football star Dave Rayner.

With the weight of the entire city and franchise on his shoulders and right foot, Rayner booted a 34-yard field goal in overtime right through the middle of the uprights to give the Lions a 23-20 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

"I watched the Lions for a long time and I didn't know exactly what their losing streak was on the road, but I know it wasn't good," Rayner said. "So to be a part of that and part of history with breaking it, now we can focus on continuing to win games and get that stuff behind us."

His field goals, one in overtime and one at the end of regulation to send the game to overtime, helped the Lions end their National Football League record of 26 consecutive losses on the road.

"I wasn't that nervous," he admitted when asked about the overtime kick. "I went out there and was pretty confident. The wind had died down and I just wanted to hit the ball clean, and I did, and got a win. (A) much, much needed road win."

He said that as soon as he struck the ball he new it was going to be good.

"I didn't even need to look up, I had hit it exactly the way I wanted to. It was dead straight down the pipes," Rayner said.

Their last road win was a 16-7 victory over the Chicago Bears on October 28, 2007.

The Lions set the benchmark for futility on the road with their 26 consecutive losses, a National Football League record.

Varsity football coach Bud Rowley was thrilled for Rayner.

"He tied the game up and his kick won it in overtime," Rowley said. "Here you are standing around for 60 plus minutes on the sidelines and they say go in there and kick that field goal to tie the game up and go kick that field goal to win that son of a gun, and he did."

"I haven't been here all year, so I don't know what they have gone through with road losses," Rayner said. "It's huge, we had talked about coming in here and being able to beat Tampa, we were the better team than they were...it was good to come out with a win."

He etched his name in Lions lore forever as he became the first Lion in team history to kick a game-tying field goal on the last play of regulation and kick the game winning field goal in overtime.

"That's a cool thing, especially since how long Jason Hanson has been here," Rayner said.

It looked like the same old Lions game was going to play out again. Tampa Bay had taken a 20-17 lead with 1:39 left in the game, when Drew Stanton started driving the Lions down the field.

After completing a 12 yard pass to tight end Tony Sheffler on a third and 10 and an incomplete pass to Calvin Johnson in the endzone, the Lions left Rayner with a 28 yard field goal attempt with three seconds left in the game.

Rayner drilled it, sending the game to overtime.

"It was probably the toughest 28 yard field goal I think I have ever kicked with the gravity of the situation," Rayner said. "I knew the snap was going to be good. I knew the hold was going to be good. I wanted to get the game into overtime."

Detroit won the coin toss in overtime and marched right down the field, determined to see the streak come to an end.

Rayner ended it with 9:31 left in overtime.

"I didn't know how the overtime was going to go...we gashed them right away on a couple of runs and then threw a pass and got into field goal range," he said.

"He is doing a great job in the NFL...it's a plus for Oxford. Oxford is a great community, great things happen here and Rayner just put an exclamation point on it," Rowley said.

"Hat's off to the Lions organization and double hats off for Dave Rayner," he added.

He also booted a 41 yard field goal in the second quarter to cut Tampa's lead to 14-10 by halftime.

This season as a Lion, Rayner has made nine of his 12 field goal attempts and all 10 of his extra point attempts. His longest field goal this season was 50 yards.

Next week when the Lions travel to Miami to face the Dolphins, a couple of former Wildcats will face each other. Rayner goes up against Miami backup center Eric Ghiaciuc, who signed with the Dolphins last month.

"It will be cool...as long as we can keep prolonging your career, that is what I am all about doing," Rayner.

"I'm sure I will say hi to him and we will talk before the game. I wish him luck until game time comes and we can come out with a win," he added.

Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.
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