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New WVIA Documentary Finally Gives Local Sports Heroes their Due

The Forgotten Dynasty: Scranton Eagles Football Premieres Nov. 14

Pittston, PA - Local sports fans likely have no idea that the nation’s most successful semi-professional team in the Empire Football League’s 55-year history rushed straight out of Northeast Pennsylvania.

WVIA is about to rectify that with the debut of its new documentary, The Forgotten Dynasty: Scranton Eagles Football, an original, feature-length film that premieres Nov. 14 at 9 p.m. exclusively on WVIA-TV and its streaming platforms.

Co-produced by former players John Kennedy (Quarterback, 1983 to 2006) and Ben Payavis (Offensive Guard, 1987 to 1994), the documentary chronicles the winningest franchise’s early days in the ‘70s and the team’s eventual record-setting domination as national champions in the 80s and early 90s.
 
When Charles “Chick” Rader, co-founder, coach and player for both the Lackawanna County and Scranton Eagles, passed away in 2017, Payavis and Kennedy decided it was time to make a documentary.

"In the 30 years since I last took to the field, no one has ever told the complete story about what made the Eagles program a powerhouse in semi-professional football,” explained Payavis, an Emmy Award-winning producer/director and Chief Content Officer at WVIA. “We wanted to create an opportunity to celebrate the rich history and tradition of Scranton Eagles football. What stood out about the team was our culture, our camaraderie.”

Filming for the upcoming release kicked off that very same year and includes historic footage both on and off the field, as well as extensive interviews with some of the greatest individuals in Scranton Eagles history, including former owner Frank Santo, coaches Allan “Butch” Keller, Stan Kucharski, John Whitelavich and Dave Baker, and players Mark Lloyd, Al McElroy, Paul Iacavazzi, Jack Bravyak, Donnie Jackson-Bey, Tony Angeli, Carl Majer, Ken Chase, Chris Coyne, Mike Brennan, Mark Arcure, Mike Rogan, Charlie Radar, Joe Luciano, Bill Michaels, Nick Parlanti, George Romiti and Kevin Edwards.

The documentary also captures the last interview with Frank Yanik, the most prolific semi-pro football player of all-time, who died before the film’s completion. The famed running back deemed “the heartbeat” of the once mighty team was a local and national football legend.

“This is the story of a great football team, one that was a big part of my life,” said Kennedy, who played for the team for 24 years. “We wanted to make this doc because it’s an incredible story. But we also made it to pay homage to our fellow Eagles who showed us the importance of brotherhood and tradition. We had great chemistry and we trusted each other. Nobody ever doubted we would win every game we played.”

The Forgotten Dynasty: Scranton Eagles Football will take viewers behind the scenes on the heroism and hijinks of a powerhouse football franchise while capturing the dedication of its coaches and resilience of its players.

“The universal appeal of football is something we know resonates strongly with WVIA audiences, so I’m delighted that we are able to add this outstanding production to our stable of award-winning documentary films,” said Carla McCabe, WVIA President and CEO.  “This premiere will be a night of celebration for the Scranton Eagles. This is our opportunity as a community to recognize a championship football team and what football represents to our region.”

The film also features rare game day footage, historic photos and additional commentary and insight from local sports reporters, former owners and more. One segment highlights the lighter side of the gridiron by exposing the team’s bus ride antics, the worst-kept secret of a particular seminary student, and even the insight – and off-the-field love story - of a former Scranton Eagles cheerleader.

“Spending the last six years, gathering more than two dozen interviews, it became apparent to me that the passion for the Scranton Eagles’ accomplishments had not waned,” added Payavis. “There were laughter and tears as the interviewees retold their stories. Their words helped us tell one of the greatest underdog stories of all time, one that few people had ever heard.”

To watch the trailer for The Forgotten Dynasty: Scranton Eagles Football, click here.

About WVIA
WVIA is the PBS and NPR affiliate serving over 22 counties in northeastern and central Pennsylvania. For over 50 years WVIA has been committed to serving the people by offering informational, educational, and entertaining content that enriches and expands viewpoints and serves as a catalyst for positive change. WVIA television channels include WVIA TV, WVIA PBS Kids 24/7, and WVIA Create. WVIA’s radio channels include WVIA Radio, WVIA Arts, and the Chiaroscuro Channel. WVIA’s programs can also be found streaming live and on-demand on wvia.org and the WVIA app.

WVIA Mission
WVIA educates, inspires, entertains and fosters citizenship, diverse cultures, and perspectives to nurture community.