Nitch, Panthers primed for showdown with CCS

by Levi Gilbert

In what’s turned into an annual tradition in the 501, the 5-2A has turned into a dogfight yet again as the football regular season draws to a close.

On Friday night, Magnet Cove and Conway Christian will square off in Conway with the 5-2A title on the line.

Magnet Cove enters the game 6-2 overall with a 4-1 mark in 5-2A play. The Eagles lead the league at 7-1 and a perfect 5-0 in the 5-2A. It could prove to be the most important game in the 5-2A this year.

“To beat Conway Christian would mean everything to our season,” said Ross Nitch, a senior defensive back for the Magnet Cove Panthers. “We just have to play to the best of our abilities and keep Conway Christian on their toes. We just need to come out swinging, and the most important thing is to finish strong.”

Nitch was selected to this year’s 501 Football Team — 24 players representing all 11 counties of the 501. The team boasts the best the 501 has to offer both on and off the field. Nitch was nominated by Magnet Cove’s head coach, Ronnie Efird.

“Ross is a very physical player who gives 100 percent full speed every play,” Efird said. “He’s never in trouble, does not worry about individual stats, is a team player who leads by example and is a winner.

“Last season, he had a hard work ethic, and he led the team in tackles with 110. Despite playing free safety, he will come up on the ball and make very physical tackles at or near the line of scrimmage.”

Nitch made all-conference in 2013, and the Panthers won a share of their third-straight 5-2A title.

“We want to be district champs again,” Nitch said. “We want to make it four years in a row. We have just been playing as a solid team. We have been clicking as one to make ourselves as good as possible. We have good plays and bad plays — we just have to strive to have more good than bad.”

Nitch and the Panthers have already had several highlights this season, including wins over Bigelow and 5-2A newcomer England. “We went into the second half down points (in both games), and we came out on top.” So far this year, Nitch has recorded 11 receptions for 175 yards and one touchdown on offense and 64 tackles and one interception, which was returned for a touchdown, on defense. 

If Magnet Cove wins at Conway Christian, they will still have a chance at the 5-2A title if England beats Poyen in Week 10.

“We should shape up well in the playoffs,” Nitch said. “I think if we get a good spot we will make it far into the playoff season.”

Fitch is a two-sport athlete at Magnet Cove; he will play baseball this spring. Off the field, Fitch is involved in Future Farmers of America (FFA), Beta Club and Science Club. He’s also an active member of Magnet Cove Missionary Baptist Church.

“I’m normally in the outdoors,” Nitch said. “I work on a farm. I like to go fishing and hunting and stay around my family.”

The Magnet Cove Panthers and Conway Christian Eagles faceoff in Conway at 7 p.m. tomorrow.