With co-op in 2nd year, Shady Side Academy ready for bump up to Class 3A

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Wednesday, August 17, 2022 | 12:01 PM


After a one-year hiatus from postseason play, Shady Side Academy qualified for the WPIAL playoffs with the help of some reinforcements.

The Bulldogs got a boost from the co-operative with The Neighborhood Academy — and the consolidation went well. After a disappointing 26-25 loss in Week 8 to Ligonier Valley, Shady Side rebounded on the final day of the regular season to make the WPIAL playoffs for the third time in four years.

Aside from the difficulty getting from The Neighborhood Academy in Pittsburgh’s Stanton Heights area to Shady Side Academy because of road closures on and around the Highland Park Bridge, things are working out well.

“Last year was definitely historic for us,” said Bulldogs coach Chuck DiNardo. “It was great in year one. There was a great learning curve. With that, we took some lessons and have grown from them.”

Since The Neighborhood Academy doesn’t have football, some of the players were new to the game. The new season should be more productive.

“We got some more guys from the Neighborhood,” DiNardo said. “We have about 14 or 15 now. That’s been a great addition, and they’ve got some good young guys.”

Besides that, DiNardo welcomes nine offensive and nine defensive players back.

“We’ve got some experience coming back and some guys that know what’s going on,” the fifth-year coach said. “We’ve got good leadership in our senior class. We’re looking to lean on some of these guys that are three- or four-year starters.”

One of those leaders is Joey Bellinotti, who made the Allegheny Conference’s first team as both a wide receiver and a defensive back.

“We have a history with some of the teams in the conference and we want to win those games,” Bellinotti said. “We want to win the conference, go to the championship like any other year and make our mark on 3A again.”

That’s correct — 3A. The least surprising aspect of the offseason was the Bulldogs advancing from Class 2A to 3A — thanks to the co-op — in the WPIAL’s biennial realignment.

Shady Side is now in the Allegheny 6 Conference with Deer Lakes, East Allegheny, Freeport, Knoch and Valley.

“We’re pretty excited about being in a new conference, but these are some familiar foes to us,” DiNardo said. “We’ll be reigniting some of the old rivalries we had in the Route 28 corridor.”

Quarterback Max Wickland also returns for the Bulldogs.

Said DiNardo: “Both Max and Joey have done a really great job for us and both guys used their time well in the offseason. They’ve changed their physical frame up a little bit. They look different. They look like they’re senior-laden now. Both are emerging as our leaders offensively and defensively.”

“Last year, we we’re a pretty young team,” Wickland said. “We had a large class of juniors and sophomores. I think we’ve had a great offseason to develop and can have a great season this year.”

Other returnees this season include wide receiver/running backs Isaiah Grier and Nate Mallory, James Bernier, a first-team tight end and linebacker last year, and two-way linemen Nate Ewell and Noah Yeh.

Unlike most other schools, Shady Side will not play a Week Zero game and go with a second scrimmage.

“There’s a positive and negative to that,” Bellinotti said. “It’s always good to have an extra game and get the real deal, but to have that extra time to work is good.”

Shady Side Academy

Coach: Chuck DiNardo

2021 record: 5-6, 2-3 in Class 2A Allegheny Conference

All-time record: 540-441-46

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

9.2 at North Catholic, 7

9.9 Indiana, 7

9.16 at Elizabeth Forward, 7

9.23 at South Allegheny, 7

9.30 Freeport*, 7

10.7 at Knoch*, 7

10.15 Valley*, 2

10.21 at Deer Lakes*, 7

10.28 East Allegheny*, 7

*Conference game

STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing: Max Wickland

84-153, 1,129 yds, 11 TDs

Rushing: Chris Sullivan*

97-543, 6 TDs

Receiving: Chris Sullivan*

22-215, 3 TDs

FAST FACTS

• Since returning to the WPIAL in 1994, Shady Side Academy has won six conference titles.

• The school traditionally plays its homecoming game on a Saturday. This year, the Bulldogs welcome Valley in a 2 p.m. encounter Oct. 15. Shady Side has campus-wide activities with other sporting events and alumni gatherings.

• Shady Side graduate Skyy Moore is doing exceedingly well in the Kansas Chiefs training camp. The second-round draft pick accounted for 3,500 total yards and 100 touchdowns during his high school career.

• On Oct. 7, Shady Side will play Knoch for the first time

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