Shady Side, Neighborhood Academy students team up for football co-op

Saturday, August 28, 2021 | 11:01 AM

After 127 years as an independent football program, Shady Side Academy now has a partner.

Due to a recently-approved cooperative agreement, 11 students from The Neighborhood Academy in Pittsburgh’s Stanton Heights section will be suiting up for Shady Side Academy.

The co-op was approved by the PIAA on July 14 and the WPIAL on July 19. The Neighborhood Academy does not sponsor football.

The addition meant that Shady Side coach Chuck DiNardo welcomed 41 players to the opening of preseason football camp last week.

“It’s amazing to see our players come together during summer workouts,” DiNardo said.

“We’re building relationships and trust in each other right now, which is vital. We have a great deal of work ahead of us, but the environment that these kids are creating each day in practice shows how we’re on to something special.”

The student-athletes attend classes daily at The Neighborhood Academy before making the 7-mile jaunt to Shady Side Academy in Fox Chapel borough.

The new co-op was scheduled to open its season at home Aug. 27 against Riverview in a nonconference game.

Shady Side will again play in the Class 2A Allegheny Conference.

Shady Side recently changed its nickname from Indians to Bulldogs, also the moniker The Neighborhood Academy has been using for its other athletic teams.

The Neighborhood Academy was founded in 2001, servicing eighth and ninth graders only.

The school was established based on a feasibility study by the Richard King Mellon Foundation that sought a solution to providing young people from underserved communities with educational, spiritual and emotional resources in an educational setting.

A co-founder was Rev. Thomas Johnson, a 1973 Shady Side Academy graduate.

The institution quickly expanded its footprint to students in grades six through 12 and moved from Penn Avenue to a newly built campus on North Aiken Avenue in 2011.

“Our community is blessed to have this opportunity with Shady Side Academy,” said Gary Shawley, the Neighborhood Academy (TNA) athletic director.

“The SSA community has welcomed us with open arms.”

TNA representative first approached then-Shady Side athletic director Gene Deal to explore a co-op. Deal, who has since retired, and DiNardo found broad support among their parents, players and alumni for the partnership.

“I think it’s amazing that there are more people playing football,” said Shady Side senior co-captain Andy Mauros.

“It’s become such a unique and valuable experience for me. Our new guys love coming in and working hard to improve.”

Sean Simmons, who recently replaced Deal as Shady Side athletic director, is completely on board.

Said Simmons: “We are excited to have this new cooperative sponsorship. It provides student-athletes from both schools the opportunity to train and compete as one Bulldogs team.”

The football co-op agreement is for this season and for 2022, after which time the schools will evaluate the partnership and decide whether it will continue.

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