At his core, Chris Bright is a problem solver.

Academically, he's the No. 4-ranked student in Rancocas Valley's senior class.

On the football field, he's the Red Devils' starting middle linebacker - the "quarterback" of the defense - and center on the offensive line.

His future is likely at an Ivy League school, and he hopes it includes a spot on a football team. And he's leaning toward studying mechanical engineering.

It's a field, however unlikely, that Bright likens to football.

"Both really just come down to how you can work your way through a problem," he said. "In both, you read it, you try to make a game plan, and if the game plan doesn't go your way, you adapt."

These are the skills - the ability to see the game and react to it faster than anyone else on the field - that led Rancocas Valley coach Dan Haussman to label Bright "the best linebacker in South Jersey."

All of those traits will come in handy Saturday when RV (9-2) plays Cherokee (8-3) at 7 p.m. at Rowan University for the South Jersey Group 5 title.

It will be the second meeting between the teams this season. The first was one of the few blemishes on what has been the Red Devils' best season in recent memory, the culmination of an impressive building process by fifth-year head coach Haussmann.

The teams met on Nov. 1, a 24-6 RV loss.

The Red Devils turned the ball over five times and struggled to stop Cherokee on third downs.

"Cherokee is a great football team," Bright said. "But I think we're a pretty good football team, too. We just have to eliminate the mistakes we made. We have to win the battles on third down.

"If we can come out and play the game we think we're capable of, we think we can show that we're a great football team."

Bright, a four-year starter, prides himself on learning from his mistakes. He's a student of the game.

He watches film at school every day after practice, and then he goes home and watches some more.

Of course, all this leads into his studies for a slate of honors courses.

"There are a lot of late nights," Bright said. "But if you're really dedicated to what you do in football and school, then it's not too much of a burden to achieve what you want."

Dedication led Bright to where he is today.

At 5-foot-11 and 215 pounds, he isn't the biggest player on the field. He's far from the fastest, either.

"But you overcome that if you're one step ahead of everyone else as far as reading and understanding the game," Bright said. "Once you're in position, all you have to do is make a play."

Added Haussman: "He just has the will. On defense, he makes every check, every adjustment. He knows everything that's going on, and that just makes everything a lot easier for his teammates and for us as coaches. He's just always in a position to make a play, and that's been huge for us."

It's certainly something RV will lean on Saturday night, the final game for 28 seniors who helped put RV back on the map.

"If we win, I think it would finally bring some well-deserved praise and recognition back to RV, something that has been missing for a long time," Bright said.

"To do that as a senior with the people that I've grown up with, in my last game, it would be a great memory forever."