Friday Night Hero: West Rowan’s Marco Gupton
By Bret Strelow
MOUNT ULLA ó When a busted coverage contributed to a long pass play for Davie County, West Rowan safety Marco Gupton chased down the receiver and made a tackle.
He came through again Friday when North Iredell’s Cameron Smith broke free for a long gain.
Gupton, now a senior leader in West’s secondary, has gone to great lengths to improve his speed and strength. He put those assets on display last week in a 42-0 victory against the Raiders.
“We need him to be good this year, and he really got off to the start we were looking for Friday night,” West coach Scott Young said. “That kid worked as hard as any kid we’ve ever asked in the offseason.”
Gupton, a three-year varsity player, has trained with former West quarterback Bryan Aycoth and gained 20 pounds since the end of last season. He’s also faster.
During the spring of his junior year, months after football had ended, Gupton would leave West’s campus at the conclusion of the school day and head directly to Velocity Sports Performance in southwest Charlotte. Forty-eight miles each way, he’d make the trip three times a week.
“I just wanted to get faster really bad, so I started looking at places on the Internet,” Gupton said. “I saw this place, and it looked pretty cool. I went there one day on a trial and liked how everything was set up.
“I went for two months, then the distance just got to be too much to handle. It wasn’t fun driving an hour there, an hour back, but I felt like it was doing so much good. I loved it, but gas got too expensive.”
Gupton increased the strength in his legs and abs. He learned about running with the proper form. He jumped onto boxes, ran with a parachute on his back and skipped rope while wearing a weighted vest.
“Football speed and 40 speed is totally different, and I see it more in football speed,” Gupton said. “All the lateral movement, jumping, starting and stopping, changing directions, I can feel it more in that.”
Gupton contributed last season, intercepting a pass against East Rowan, and the Falcons lost secondary standouts such as Justin Avery and Jordan Lilly to graduation. They’re now defensive backs at UNC Pembroke.
Gupton returned a punt 40 yards for a touchdown in a season-opening victory against North Rowan, and he blocked a punt against North Iredell.
He tackled ballcarriers in open-field situations and made sure fellow defenders lined up correctly when the Raiders set up with three receivers bunched together on the same side of the field.
“I’ve asked too much of him in a lot of ways, got him trying to think for too many people,” West defensive coordinator David Hunt said. “I think Friday night was the first time he really settled down and relaxed and played his spot rather than worrying about where everyone else was. The result was a lot better.
“I thought it’s the best he’s played since he’s been here.”