Situated on a sprawling campus with an enrollment of about 1,400 students in the top two grades, the school is affectionately known to some as “The U,” a nickname referencing not only the school’s size, but also its athletic prowess.
Vincentian Academy is separated from North Allegheny by a 4-mile stretch of Perry Highway and McKnight Road, but it may as well be an entire universe away. Perched atop a hill overlooking a small green space used as a football practice field, the school has about 250 students in grades 9 through 12.
With the Royals completing their first varsity season last week, for those involved in the program, lessons have been learned, challenges have been faced and goals have been met.
Predictably, challenges have presented themselves to Vincentian, ones that administrators and coaches said they fully expected. In a sport such as football, one so heavily reliant upon organization, structure and sheer manpower, starting a program from scratch has proven to be a task as difficult as it has been rewarding.
The team’s official roster lists 20 players, but several team members were injured early in the season and, according to coach Tim Storino, for most practices this season the Royals have had just 14-15 players.
“Anyone who’s been around knows that it’s hard to give a good look at the other side of the ball perspective, as to how it’s going to look like in a game [without sufficient numbers],” Storino said. “We’ve had coaches filling in, holding bags and blocking shields. We haven’t been able to get a great look.”
For senior wide receiver/defensive back Alex Frazer, it was a three-year wait that began with no guarantee of a team, but he has relished the opportunity to play.
Indeed, even with all of the challenges, there have been some memorable moments for the team’s players. Some talked glowingly of a preseason camp the team attended at California University of Pennsylvania, something which Frazer said helped the team come together.
Having lost their first two games by at least 20 points, the Royals scored almost as many points in a 48-minute period as they had in all of their other games combined. Though it was against one of the only other WPIAL teams as undermanned as Vincentian, it could not take anything from what they accomplished.
Now, with the growing pains of the debut season in the past, Boyd, Storino and those around the program are looking forward to the next steps in the process.
A larger, much more long-term goal also looms — the construction of an on-campus facility. Vincentian played all of its games this season on the road and while there is a field on school grounds, a turf field, lights and a scoreboard, among other things, would have to be installed, with Storino estimating the cost of construction to be $500,000 to $1 million.