Shady Side Academy celebrates ‘historically amazing’ football season

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Saturday, November 20, 2021 | 11:01 AM


The 128th football season for Shady Side Academy was a season like no other.

First, the school adopted a new nickname – the Bulldogs – and the team began a co-operative agreement with The Neighborhood Academy.

“Historically amazing,” said Bulldogs coach Chuck DiNardo. “We took two groups of kids who didn’t know each other and found a new, little family.”

Ten players from The Neighborhood Academy, which doesn’t sponsor football, were accepted as Shady Side players.

The Bulldogs made the WPIAL playoffs and finished the season at 5-6, 2-3 in the Allegheny Conference.

The season got off to a good start with a 38-12 victory over Riverview.

“That opening game was a target for us with our new nickname and new players,” the fifth-year coach said.

After a loss at Springdale, the Bulldogs rebounded with nonconference victories against Valley and Carlynton.

DiNardo, however, feels the turning point of the season came in the Oct. 9 game against Apollo-Ridge. Shady Side stopped Apollo-Ridge inside its 10 three times in the first half.

The Bulldogs took a 21-0 lead on Chris Sullivan’s 17-yard touchdown run with 1 minute, 28 seconds left in the third quarter.

But Apollo-Ridge came storming back with two touchdowns in 2 1/2 minutes. Shady Side responded with a 37-yard kickoff return by Joey Bellinotti and a 41-yard touchdown pass to Nate Mallory.

Said DiNardo: “That was a big game. It was a homecoming win against a good Apollo-Ridge team. It was exciting for us.”

“I knew we were in a do-or-die moment in a close game, so I knew I had to get something going on that play,” Bellinotti said after that game.

Of the 72 teams in the WPIAL playoffs, Shady Side was the final team to clinch, defeating Summit Academy in an Oct. 30 afternoon road game.

“We said to the players it was right on the line for us and told them to just do their jobs,” DiNardo said.

The season ended abruptly in the first round of the playoffs against No. 2-seeded Sto-Rox.

The Bulldogs staff was pleased with the leadership of seniors Sullivan, a running back/linebacker, and two-way lineman Andy Mauros.

Unfortunately, Mauros suffered a shoulder injury in the Apollo-Ridge game and didn’t play after that.

“They both came through for us in a leadership role,” DiNardo said. “Isaiah Grier also showed he can be a big-play guy at wide receiver and cornerback.”

Sullivan is starting to get some attention on the collegiate level.

With only four of the 22 starting positions being vacated with graduation, 18 starters will return and the Bulldogs are optimistic about 2022.

With the additional school enrollment, however, it might bump Shady Side from Class 2A to 3A under the upcoming PIAA realignment, and it would play old rivals such as Burrell, Freeport and Deer Lakes.

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