It seemed that David Wilson could sense what was going to happen.
Wilson, Reseda High's middle linebacker, was lined up as the short man on a punt return against Westchester earlier this season. But instead of punting, the Comets attempted a pass.
"They had everyone in the ballpark, including me, faked out," Reseda Coach Joel Schaeffer said. "Except for David."
As the Westchester receiver turned trying to make the catch, Wilson sprinted toward him. The ball and the 6-1, 195-pound Wilson hit the player simultaneously.
The ball fell to the ground. The Westchester player fell to the ground. His helmet flew off, taking a pretty good chunk of the lad's wits with it.
"After the game, he almost came over and got on our bus," Reseda assistant Mike Stone said.
Reseda running back Ronald Wilkinson felt sorry for the Westchester player. "He shouldn't have jumped. He paid for it," Wilkinson said, shaking his head.
That unfortunate player is not alone. Many opponents have come away from a Reseda game with a white No. 80 tattooed on their jerseys, helmets or anywhere else Wilson hit them.
In four years at Reseda, Wilson has gone from bench-warmer to the City Section 2-A player of the year. His accolades, like his tackles, have multiplied.
"He's the best kid I've ever had in the 21 years I have coached," Schaeffer said. "I said that when he was in 10th grade and I've never had to back down from that."
In eight games this season, Wilson has 107 solo tackles, 43 tackle assists and 6 sacks. He is involved in almost 20 tackles per game.
And the impact of almost every one is as hard as the one in the Westchester game.
"I've never seen a high school football player with the ability he has," said Shawn Peet, Reseda's other inside linebacker.
Wilson has something else Peet has never seen in a player. "He's a perfect gentleman," Peet said.
Wilson, possibly the area's best inside linebacker and playing at a position that requires as much decorum as an armed rebellion , a perfect gentleman?
"He's very nice and easygoing off the field," Schaeffer said. "He's definitely Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."
In keeping with his modest personality, Wilson grudgingly acknowledges the responsibility of being the leader of a defensive unit that has allowed the fewest yards (150.9) and points (8.0) per game among Valley-area schools this year.
"I guess I am," Wilson said, "but I'm not trying to be the leader or anything."
His teammates find it easier to accept Wilson's role than he does. "He's an inspiration on the field," Peet said. "I look at him as a role model. He made me play better by seeing him play. He taught me by watching him."
Wilson did a lot of watching when he was a freshman. As a member of Reseda's B team, Wilson was so low on the depth chart that sometimes he was not given a uniform for games. Instead, he sat in the bleachers and watched.
In retrospect, Wilson doesn't mind missing those games. "I didn't really want to play on the B's," he said.
And it didn't affect his development as a player. As a sophomore, Wilson was an All-Pac 8 League linebacker. Last year, he was the City 2-A player of the year.
But Wilson doesn't care about awards. They could take last year's award away and give this year's to the water boy. As long as Reseda wins the 2-A title, Wilson would be willing to replace his trophy with a bookend.
"I haven't thought about it," Wilson said. "Just as long as we repeat as City champs, I'm not worried about personal goals."
Wilson is doing his best to see that the Regents do repeat. He again leads the defense in total tackles, and, as a tight end, is the team's top receiver with 17 catches for 376 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Said Peet: "He's a quiet guy. But when he's on the field, he plays big and stands tall."
And hits hard. Very hard.