Brea Olinda's Zach Arnold, right, has been a hard-hitting starter on the team's defense for three seasons. He's also used at fullback on offense. ‘That level of intensity he plays at gets everybody else fired up,' Coach Robb Perrance said.

Arnold's intensity hits the spot for Brea Olinda


A freshman playing on the varsity special teams is rare.

Starting at middle linebacker? That’s rarer still.

Three years ago, Brea Olinda freshman Zach Arnold got the call.

Arnold was a regular on the varsity’s special teams units. After a spate of injuries, Arnold was placed into the starting lineup, at middle linebacker, against Yorba Linda.

How did it go?

“We lost pretty good,” Arnold recalled of the Wildcats’ 35-7 loss to Yorba Linda. “But I did all right.”

He did more than all right. Arnold had eight tackles in that game in 2012.

In his sophomore year, Arnold was selected All-Century League second team as he continued to man the middle linebacker position he still plays now. As a junior he was North Hills League defensive player of the year.

This season, Arnold is the leading tackler for the Wildcats, who play Canyon tonight in the CIF-SS Southern Division championship game at Brea Olinda High.

In last week’s semifinals, Arnold had 18 total tackles, nine of them solo tackles, and caused a fumble in Brea’s 17-7 win over Garden Grove. For the season, Arnold has a team-high 119 tackles, including 70 solo tackles.

Arnold, a team captain, also plays fullback on offense where, Brea coach Robb Perrance said, Arnold’s aggressive style also makes an impact.

“That level of intensity he plays at gets everybody else fired up,” Perrance said. “When he plays fullback, he brings that for us there, too.”

Arnold also brings it to his studies. He has a 4.4 grade-point average.

Perrance said that dedication and success comes from Arnold’s upbringing. His parents have athletic backgrounds. His father, Jason, is the Wildcats’ offensive coordinator.

“They’ve always been deeply involved in everything with Zach,” Perrance said.

Arnold’s football role model was known for his determination and dedication – former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.

“Growing up, he was my idol,” Arnold said. “He always played fast and he never took a play off. I liked the way he hit guys and led his teams.”

Arnold missed a couple of games early in the season because of a concussion. He was not the only important player who was out of the Wildcats’ lineup in the first weeks of the season.

“We had 20 guys out at one point of the season,” Arnold said. “It was really crazy. But once we started getting healthy, we got the full team back and we got our mojo back.”

That mojo has led the Wildcats to the Southern Division final and another game against Canyon. Brea lost the Comanches, 26-0, in a North Hills League game last month.

“We’re excited to get this rematch,” Arnold said. “We know a lot about them and we have a lot of respect for them. We feel like that wasn’t us at all out there when we played them last time.”

Arnold, 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, has been getting recruiting interest from Hawaii and UC Davis. Perrance said the school that gets Arnold is getting a winner.

“He’s a ‘yes-sir, no-sir’ guy even when he doesn’t have to be,” Perrance said. “I’ll say to him, ‘Come on, Zach, relax a little bit.’”

Maybe he will when this long, rewarding season is over.

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