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Gallagher column: West on the way to Wake

Roaming the county getting ready for Saturday …
Perhaps it’s in the stars that Mackel Gaither could win a championship.
It’s certainly in the genes.
West Rowan takes on West Craven tomorrow at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem for the top prize in 3A football. Should Gaither walk away with a title, he would become the third member of the football-playing family to do so.
Mackel is attempting to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, Leon Jr., who won a state title for Price High in 1940. Like Mackel, he was a defensive lineman.
Mackel’s father, Leon III, won a WNCHSAA title at Salisbury in 1974.
“This has always been a big dream of mine,” Mackel said. “My dad told me to just play hard and give it all I have. He told me it’s a chance of a lifetime.”
He listened to his late grandfather, a Price Hall of Famer, tell stories. Offenses knew where Leon was.
“They ran away from him,” Mackel said.
He has also listened to his father, who kids him about the Salisbury-West Rowan rivalry.
“He’s always talking junk about how they used to beat West,” Mackel said. “I tell him it’s a new beginning.”
Gaither loves being a part of what he thinks is a unmatched defensive line.
“Me being a part of this team is really special,” he said. “Everybody, from Chris (Smith) to Eli (Goodson) to Kenderic (Dunlap) to Brett (Graham) … I love ’em all.”
He also loves the hype he and his teammates have been receiving this week.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “Everything’s going on. It’s just unbelievable.”
It seems like a long time ago when his dad was coaching him from the third through sixth grades. It was a football family through and through.
Mackel has heard about the other championships. Now he wants to talk about winning a title game.
“The atmosphere is going to be crazy,” Gaither said. “I’m very excited about it.”
Gaither looked up at the other banners hanging from West’s gymnasium wall.
“We’re close to hanging something up in here forever,” he said.
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Garrett Teeter has also heard about state titles. His grandfather, Robert Dyson, played on the 1961 championship team at Mooresville.
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West will be playing on field turf at BB&T Field, so coach Scott Young took his team to practice twice on the artificial grass.
The team went to Mooresville, which has a turf field, on Tuesday. Raindrops fell Wednesday, and West’s gym was full of basketball players. With rain forecast for Thursday, Young took his team to the Carolina Panthers’ indoor facility in Charlotte to work on turf yet again.
“It makes you feel faster,” Gaither said.
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Defensive back Marco Gupton, the bona fide leader of the secondary, blew out his knee late in the regular-season. He decided ACL surgery would have to wait until after the season.
Gupton intercepted a pass last week in the Western final win over South Point, but how much he’ll play against pass-happy West Craven will be determined as the game goes.
“There are a couple of coverages that he’ll have to be involved in,” coordinator David Hunt said. “There’s a couple of coverages I don’t think he can be involved in.”
Hunt definitely wants Gupton on the field. Coming into the season, the senior was the only defensive back with major experience.
“When he’s not on the field,” Hunt said, “we’re not as good.”
The bottom line is finding out how effective Gupton can be on that bad wheel.
“He’ll never admit it, but I saw that knee wobble two or three times (against South Point),” Hunt said.
Young told Hunt to take Gupton out for a breather. When he asked what he did to be taken out, he was informed he was limping. Gupton said he didn’t notice.
“A 16-, 17-year-old doesn’t understand sometimes that when you take him out, it’s not personal,” Hunt said. “Marco has handled it real well. He understands the situation. He doesn’t like it. I don’t like it.”
The coaches would like nothing better than for Gupton to make a play that helps the Falcons win a state title.
“That kid has shown a tremendous amount of guts,” Hunt said. “Nobody is more proud of him than I am.”
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Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or rgallagher@salisburypost.com.

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