Buckeye Pipelines puts the spotlight each week on a high school program who has had numerous and notable alumni go on to play for the Scarlet and Gray.
This week, we take a look at a school that has produced 15 Ohio State football players since 1970: Upper Arlington. Between 1997 and 2014, eight Golden Bears were on the Buckeyes’ fall roster.
LOCATION: UPPER ARLINGTON, OH
CONFERENCE: OHIO CAPITAL
2021 RECORD 14–1
2 STRAIGHT PLAYOFF APPEARANCES
1 STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
WON THREE STRAIGHT AP POLL TITLES, 1967-69
10TH-MOST PLAYERS ON OHIO STATE'S ROSTER (15)
12TH-MOST ROSTER APPEARANCES (42)
With the school's location near Ohio State's campus – and recent success of the Golden Bears' football team – Upper Arlington coach Justin Buttermore says the Buckeyes have built a strong relationship with his program.
“The Ohio State football staff has been generous with their time,” Buttermore told Eleven Warriors. “(Head coach Ryan) Day, (defensive coordinator Jim) Knowles and (former linebackers coach Al) Washington (prior to staff changes) have all been in the building since the end of the football season. (Executive director for football relations Tim) Hinton and (director of high school relations Ed) Terwilliger have also been great about communicating information that allows us to stay better connected with the football staff.”
The close proximity is certainly a reason why Upper Arlington has had the 10th-most Ohio State football players of any high school since 1970.
Notable Buckeyes from Upper Arlington
WR Chad Cacchio (1997-2000)
Cacchio started his Ohio State career as a walk-on in 1996 and made the roster in 1997. He possessed a reputation for being a third-down specialist as he hauled in 20 catches for 390 yards and four touchdowns in his senior year at Ohio State.
Cacchio credits the Upper Arlington football program for preparing him for his collegiate career.
"The most important thing that growing up and playing for UA is the love of the game that it fostered,” Cacchio said. “I honestly feel that the youth program in UA at Northam Park played a huge role in my success."
Playing at an early age improved his "football IQ." Being the Golden Bears' starting quarterback in high school also helped.
“My QB background really gave me an advantage over other WR because reading defense and coverages, which is paramount in college football, was easy for me,” Cacchio said. “It helped me be on the same page with the OSU QB's.”
Although he was an all-state punter in high school, any thoughts of Cacchio becoming a punter for Ohio State were quickly extinguished.
“When I saw the other punters (Brent Bartholomew) kick it about 20 yards farther than I could, I realized that I should just stick with WR,” Cacchio said.
Cacchio's intelligence wasn't limited to the football field. He earned Academic All-Big Ten honors four times, and Dr. Cacchio is currently practicing dentistry in Upper Arlington.
DE Simon Fraser (2001-04)
Fraser was a captain of the 2004 team and earned Academic All-Big Ten honors three times. Ohio State went 40–11 during Fraser’s career, winning the national championship in 2002.
Following his playing days at Ohio State, Fraser signed with the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted free agent in 2005. During his three years in Cleveland, he started five games and recorded 52 tackles and five tackles-for-loss. Fraser completed his NFL career with the Atlanta Falcons in 2008.
Fraser was an All-Ohioan for Upper Arlington as a junior and senior. He was also a key player on the Golden Bears' 2000 state championship team. Fraser also played basketball and track, making it to the state championship in the shot put as a junior.
Today, Fraser is a vascular surgery fellow at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
DE/OL Tim Schafer (2002-06)
Schafer began his Buckeye career as a defensive end for three seasons. In 2005, Schafer was switched to offensive guard when Kirk Barton and Steve Rehring were unable to play due to medical reasons. Schafer played in the last six games of the 2005 season and was Alex Boone's back-up at left tackle for the 2006 season.
At Upper Arlington, Schafer was an All-Ohioan as a senior and a three-year starter. The Golden Bears won the state title during his junior year. Additionally, Schafer was a two-year starter on the basketball team, and the squad reached the regional finals his senior season.
|POS||PLAYER||YEARS||OHIO STATE CAREER||HS CAREER|
|DE||BRENDAN DONOVAN||1972||Made the roster for one season, did not play.||All-Ohio linebacker.|
|P||DAVID McKEE||1977-78||Had 29 punts in 1977 and averaged 35.2 yards per punt. Did not have a punt in 1978.||Averaged 38.8 yards per punt and 4-4.8 seconds of hang-time at UA.|
|DT||WILLIAM WILSON||1979-81||Played one game during his time in Columbus.|
|LB/FB||MARK PFISTER||1982-85||Injuries kept him off the field; had an ulcer, knee sprain, two shoulder separations and a hand injury.||All-Ohioan as a linebacker and UA went 28–4–1 with him on the team.|
|DT||MIKE MACHINSKY||1983||Did not see the field during his one season on the team; his dad, Francis, was a starting tackle for OSU's 1954 National Championship team.||All-Ohio and All-District tackle, three-year player on defense, part-time player on offense.|
|WR||TIM HALLER||1984-86||Did not see the field during his three seasons on the roster.|
|TE||JOE HAZELBAKER||1990||On the roster for one season, did not play.|
|WR||CHAD CACCHIO||1997-00||Walked on in 1996, earned a scholarship in 1999, played in 31 games. 4x Academic All-Big Ten.||Started at QB and was an All-Ohio punter; also played baseball.|
|FB/ HB||JESSE KLINE||1999-02||Played in 16 games and had two carries for five yards. 2x Academic All-Big Ten (2000, 2001).||All-Ohio FB as a junior, missed much of his senior year with a hamstring injury, but still ran for 1,100 yards and 15 TDs.|
|OL||MICHAEL STAFFORD||1999-02||Walk-on who earned a scholarship in 2001, started four games in 2002.||Won a conference and regional championship in 1997.|
|DE||SIMON FRASER||2001-04||Captain and 3x All-Academic Big Ten, won three bowl games including 2002 national championship.||State champ, All-Ohioan, UA Hall of Fame.|
|LB||JOE BRADLEY||2002-03||Walk-on who played in five games. Was listed in the 2004 Media Guide, but was not on the roster as of 9/8/04.||All-District LB, went 15–0 and won the state title as a senior.|
|DE/OL||TIM SCHAFER||2002-06||Started career as a DE, but switched to OL due to team need.||All-Ohioan and started three seasons; also played basketball.|
|HB||MATTHEW JOHNSON||2004||On the roster for one season.|
|WR||FRANK EPITROPOULOS||2012-14||Redshirted in 2012, caught one pass for six yards; transferred to MSU and had one tackle for the Spartans. His dad (John) and uncle (Ernie) also played for OSU.||Played WR, DB and P for UA, two-time 2nd Team All-Ohio.|
|Note: Former Upper Arlington players Todd Hartman (1986), Greg Martin (1992), Tucker Allen (2002), Bill Finissi (2002) and Christian Soult (2002) also spent time with the Buckeyes as walk-ons but were never listed on an official media guide roster.|
More about Upper Arlington
Howard Dwight Smith, Ohio Stadium's architect, designed the building that would become Upper Arlington's original high school. The building opened in 1924 for grades 1-6 and added grades 7-12 in 1926.
In 1956, the original high school – which is now Jones Middle School – was replaced with the “new” high school on Ridgeview Road. This building had a 50+ year run until it was demolished and turned into a parking lot for the latest Upper Arlington High School that was opened in 2021.
The Golden Bears compete in the Ohio Capital Conference and Division 1, Region 3. Upper Arlington was a perfect 10–0 in the regular season last year and played St. Edward in the state semifinal. The 16-10 defeat to the Eagles was UA's lone loss of the season.
In 2000, the Golden Bears defeated Solon to win the school's first OHSAA playoff state championship. UA was named the AP Poll state champion in three consecutive years starting in 1967.
Across all sports, Upper Arlington owns 52 OHSAA sponsored state championships. The boys' golf team leads the way with 17 state titles, followed by girls' swimming with 12 state championships. Other programs to claim titles for UA are boys' baseball, basketball, swimming, track and field and girls' basketball, cross country, gymnastics, lacrosse and track and field.
In 1986-87, Upper Arlington set the state record for most OHSAA state championships in a single school year with four.
If the non-OHSAA sponsored sports of boys' lacrosse along with boys' and girls' water polo are included, the Golden Bears' championship total balloons to 116.
New coach leading UA resurgence
Justin Buttermore arrived at Upper Arlington after successful stints at Tri-Valley and Granville. His impact on the Golden Bears' football team was felt immediately. In 2020, Buttermore's first season, he has guided the team to its first playoff victory since 2015.
By qualifying for the playoffs in 2020 and 2021, Upper Arlington made the postseason in consecutive years for the first time since 2007 and 2008.
How did the Golden Bears accomplish such swift success? Buttermore credits high expectations and driven players, “We try each year to create a standard in our program that requires great effort and sacrificing individual accolades for team success. We attribute our quick turnaround to our players' willingness to buy into those standards for our program.”
A strong youth program and support from past football players and the community are part of the reason Buttermore believes Upper Arlington is special.
"The ability to align our program’s philosophy from our Northam Park youth league through the varsity program provides us with great retention of players and great player development from year to year as players move through the program,” Buttermore said. “We have a great football tradition that we can lean on each and every year. Many of our players have parents that attended Upper Arlington, and the pride in our program is felt throughout the school and community. Members of our championship teams from the past still live in our community and show up each to watch our players build on our winning tradition.”
Success on the football field is important at Upper Arlington, but Cacchio and Buttermore say the importance of academics and community support make Upper Arlington High School special.
"Our community has high standards for both academics and athletics and we embrace that in our football program. We receive outstanding support for our program. The community has provided us with great resources, including a great new high school campus and upgrades to our athletic facilities," Buttermore shared.
Cacchio added: “Academics was always the most important. It helped me to focus and succeed in my college studies and eventually graduate from dental school. UA built that STUDENT/athlete foundation.”
Other famous alumni
In addition to the fifteen Golden Bears who played football at Ohio State between 1970-2021, Upper Arlington also produced some early Buckeye gridiron stars as well as a legendary golfer.
Jack Nicklaus is widely regarded as one of the greatest golfers of all-time with 117 career tournament victories, including a record 18 major golf championships and six Masters titles. Nicklaus also won the U.S. Amateur title twice while attending and playing for Ohio State.
Jack Graf played for Francis Schmidt and Paul Brown at Ohio State from 1939-41. Brown moved Graf from quarterback to fullback, where the Upper Arlington alum earned the Chicago Tribune Silver Football Award and was also the MVP of the 1941 team. On the basketball team, Graf was a captain and guard.
Fred "Curly" Morrison played end and fullback for the Buckeyes from 1946-49. He led the team in receptions as a sophomore. During his senior season, Morrison was named the Rose Bowl MVP as he rushed for 119 yards in Ohio State's 17-14 victory over Cal. He was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 1993.
More famous people from Upper Arlington include:
- Olympic diver Abby Johnston (the wife of current Ohio State program assistant Sam McGrath)
- Astrophysicist George Smoot
- Actress Beverly D'Angelo
- Musician Terry Waldo
- Entrepreneur Jeni Britton Bauer
- Novelist Lois McMaster-Bujold
Time-traveling whiskey connoisseur and Eleven Warriors executive editor Ramzy Nasrallah is also a graduate of Upper Arlington.
Why are Buckeyes prior to 1970 and some walk-on players not highlighted or included in the rankings? Ohio State's official rosters listed the hometown of players, but did not provide their high school on the roster before 1970. The official rosters released at the start of each season were used, due to this, some walk-on players may not be listed as they were not on the season opening official rosters.