Shady Side Academy shakes off tough start, starts to find stride

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Saturday, October 1, 2022 | 11:01 AM


After a rough start, the Shady Side Academy football team finally broke through with a resounding 41-0 victory over South Allegheny.

The victory was at the Gladiators’ new stadium in Liberty Borough, near McKeesport.

The key performers for the Bulldogs were senior Joey Bellinotti, who scored touchdowns on a 5-yard run, a 19-yard pass reception and an 80-yard kickoff return, and quarterback Max Wickland, who threw the scoring pass to Bellinotti and ran two in himself on carries of 52 and 25 yards.

Bellinotti, a first-team all-conference player last season, continues to show the ability to make an impact in any number of ways.

Shady Side had lost its first three games.

“We had a difficult start,” said sixth-year coach Chuck DiNardo. “But our kids showed the ability to bounce back and we continue to ramp up our intensity.”

The game against Indiana was particularly difficult. The Bulldogs had a 22-20 lead late in the final quarter, only to see the Indians drive for a field goal by Tristan Redinger as time ran out.

After the South Allegheny game, the remainder of the schedule will be against Allegheny 6 Conference teams. Shady Side advanced from Class 2A to Class 3A this season, mainly because of the co-operative program started in 2021 with The Neighborhood Academy, located in the Stanton Heights section of Pittsburgh.

“We feel we are playing our best football right now,” DiNardo said. “Max was only 3 for 3 in passing against South Allegheny, but he’s making good decisions in his second year as a starter for us and with the help up front with our offensive line. Max is really starting to take ownership of our offense.”

The Shady Side coaching staff is particularly pleased with how the line is playing with tackles Nate Ewell and Noah Yeh, guards Greg Rushnock and Rashaad Chapman and center Phil Babucio.

After the conference opener with Freeport, the Bulldogs will play Knoch, Valley, Deer Lakes, then close out the regular season against East Allegheny.

Said DiNardo: “Our conference top to bottom is really talented. It’s typical Allegheny football where on any given night you can have any team win, and I keep telling that to my team.”

In a scheduling oddity, Shady Side will play two games at Deer Lakes. The Oct. 7 game is against Knoch, but Knoch is playing on the road during expansive renovations at Knoch Knights Stadium, much like the situation Shady Side Acdemy dealt with last spring when all of its baseball and softball games were played on the road.

Emerging this year is the versatile James DelVecchio.

“James has played a lot of different positions for us,” DiNardo said. “He’s been primarily a wide receiver and a defensive back, and he’s been a great weapon for us.”

Also, Chapman is coming on strong as a second-year starter showing experience on the line.

Now, the Bulldogs are hoping to get back a couple players from injuries and making a push toward the WPIAL playoffs.

“It’ll be nice to get them back and play 48 minutes of strong football,” DiNardo said.

The Valley game on Oct. 15 will be the school’s homecoming contest and will have a 2:30 p.m. kickoff.

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