Whether patrolling the penalty area or pacing the sideline, Terry Davila has been crucial to the success of the Reseda High boys' soccer team for the past 10 years.
As a senior sweeper, he led the Regents to the 1988 City Section title and was selected City defensive player of the year. Seven years later, as the team's coach, he guided it to a Valley Pac-8 Conference title and a postseason run that ended with a narrow semifinal loss.
And as an assistant this season, Davila, 28, has helped a talented team recognize nearly all of its considerable potential.
Reseda plays Bell tonight in the section title game at 6 at East Los Angeles College.
"I love coaching at Reseda," said Davila, whose father and three brothers are also Regent alumni. "I love being a part of the community here."
If love was the extent of Davila's method, the Regents would have likely underachieved for a second consecutive season. But with his expertise and empathy, Reseda is on the verge of living up to its role as preseason title favorite.
After graduating from Reseda, Davila helped his former team occasionally from 1989-92 and was the Regents' coach from 1992-95. Davila then left for two seasons to be an assistant with the men's team at Cal State Northridge, where he was a starter from 1988-91.
During his absence, Reseda's talent level remained high but its focus frayed as Julio Castillo, a 1993 Reseda graduate and a former player and assistant for Davila, struggled to direct a roster that included former teammates.
In 1996, Reseda was eliminated in the quarterfinals. Last season the Regents were top-seeded in the playoffs before imploding in a flurry of yellow cards during a second-round upset loss to El Camino Real.
Before this season, Castillo, 23, asked Davila, who had resigned from his Northridge post, to return as a Reseda assistant. In four months, a strong partnership has formed.
"I know most of them look up to Terry and see me more as a friend, Castillo said. "If I'd had any second thoughts [about the arrangement] he wouldn't be here. But since he came we have never fought."
Castillo's ability to scout opponents combines with Davila's expertise at implementing a game plan. And while the emotional Davila motivates the team and serves as its counselor, Castillo's calm demeanor lends itself well to game-time decisions.
"They don't stop each other from saying anything; they have an agreement that works," Reseda forward Jesse Servin said.
After being touted early, Reseda stumbled in midseason, losing to Poly and Monroe in the span of five days and finishing second to Poly in the Valley Pac-8 Conference.
Davila said Reseda, which was awarded the conference title Tuesday after Poly was disqualified from the playoffs, learned from its mistakes.
"We relied on our talent too much," Davila said. "After the Monroe [loss] Julio and I finally realized this team was ours; they were willing to do what we wanted."
What the coaches wanted was a commitment to defense while maintaining the kind of creativity on offense that intimidates opponents. In a 3-0 semifinal victory Tuesday over El Camino Real, Reseda allowed no substantial shots on goal from inside its penalty area.
Adolfo Perez, a former men's soccer coach at Mission College, played against Davila for four years at Birmingham before becoming his teammate at Northridge. He said that without Davila, Reseda's season would be over.
"The kids see how hard [Davila] works and they respect that," Perez said. "They know he's in it for them and they return the effort."
Davila hopes the Regents will play as hard tonight as he did in his City title game appearance against San Pedro 10 years ago. After not practicing for a week because of a hyperextended knee, Davila held Raul Haro, the City's career scoring leader, scoreless and helped Reseda to a 3-1 victory.
"I've tried to teach [the players] that real opportunities don't come along that often," Davila said. "Everybody wants to win but have you worked harder at preparing to win? I think we have."