Since the beginning of August and through Friday, the Star is featuring some of Southern Arizona’s top high school football players to watch this fall. Our series continues today with Matt Solverson, who a perfect fit at tight end for Ironwood Ridge.

Matt Solverson

The rundown: TE/OLB, 6-2, 195, Ironwood Ridge, senior

Who he is: A heady athlete, who will do anything for his team. Voted one of three team captains this season, Solverson knows his team is relying on him to help the Nighthawks get deep into the state playoffs after a first-round exit last year. His athletic prowess allows coaches to flex him out in space and line him up in different spots as a tight end. This season Solverson will also line up at outside linebacker, despite accumulating just one tackle in all of 2013. To better prepare for the rigors of defense, he has been working on his footwork and aggressiveness to cut out wasted steps and make more tackles. While Solverson doesn’t appear imposing, coaches called him a second lineman when he’s bulldozing defensive ends in the run game. Kenny Don, an I-Ridge assistant who coaches tight ends, said Solverson is perfect for their system and his techniques are correct. “He’s very reliable,” Don added. “We can put him anywhere and I can trust him to get the job done.” In his senior year, Solverson still plans on also playing basketball and volleyball, as he has throughout high school. He hasn’t decided what he’d like to do in college, but hopes to play either volleyball or football at the next level. He’s received some interest from some Division II football squads but he wants to keep his options open and play out both seasons.

Proof he’s good: Solverson’s ability to adjust routes based on what the defense shows, his soft hands and ability to shield his body from defenders to catch a pass make him a top target in the Nighthawks’ passing game. Though the Nighthawks’ offense was focused primarily on the running game last season, Solverson still managed to score touchdowns in seven games. As a junior, Solverson lead I-Ridge in receptions (35), receiving yards (535) and receiving touchdowns (8). He also hauled in at least two receptions in all but one game. This fall Solverson hopes to become a better threat with the ball in his hands after the catch.

He said it: “He’s very intelligent. He picks things up very quickly and I never have to get on him for his effort or things like that. He’s a details kind of guy, a great leader who makes our group stronger.” — Don