WVIA Announces Original Documentary Film Chronicling the 2022 Southern Columbia Area High School Football Tigers

WVIA has announced its next original documentary film will chronicle the 2022 Southern Columbia Area High School Football Tigers as they chase a PIAA (Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, Inc.)   record sixth consecutive state championship.

Award-winning WVIA filmmaker Alexander Monelli will tell the story of their season from the locker room to practices to the sidelines of the games, giving viewers an up close and never-before-seen look at of one of the top high school football programs in the state. Located in rural Catawissa, Pennsylvania (near the world-renowned Knoebels Amusement Resort), the film aims to discover what makes the small-town team so successful year after year while simultaneously chronicling its great history. The documentary will also delve into some of the history of high school football in northeastern and central Pennsylvania, exploring programs like George Curry’s old Berwick Bulldogs and comparing them to Southern Columbia.

The film will feature interviews with the 2022 Southern Columbia football team and its coaches alongside interviews with former NFL players Henry Hynoski (Southern Columbia, New York Giants) and Bo Orlando (Berwick, Houston Oilers), as well as former WNEP sports director Jim Coles, who covered Southern Columbia and regional high school football for 33 years.

“We have this incredible story right in our own backyard. The Southern Columbia football program was almost shut down in 1980 because of a 26-game losing streak and poor player turnout. It is now the perennial state champion with the winningest high school football coach in Pennsylvania history,” said filmmaker Alexander Monelli. “Everyone has their theory (good and bad) about how Southern is so dominant every year. I’m looking to answer that question with this film. And the real answer might just surprise you.”

“What I hope people will say after this documentary is ‘they do things the right way,” said head coach Jim Roth. “As far as the way we work, the way we treat players, the way we interact, and then the rest takes care of itself and translates into wins.” “Southern Columbia High School football is a unique story, and we are excited to give our viewers an up-close and personal view of this team,” said Ben Payavis II, WVIA Chief Content Officer. “WVIA takes pride in shining a light on the stories of our region and giving them a platform to be shared with the world.”

WVIA Announces New Original Documentary Film

This June marks the 50th anniversary of Hurricane Agnes’s devastation of Northeastern Pennsylvania. WVIA will commemorate the day with Agnes 50, a multiplatform initiative that will explore the events of June 23rd 1972, as well as the response in the years after. 

The initiative will include the original documentary film Agnes 50: Life After the Flood, focusing on different communities that were affected by the flood. Excerpts from the documentary will air on WVIA’s social channels in the weeks leading up to the broadcast premiere on Thursday, June 23rd at 9 p.m. 

Watch the trailer for Agnes 50: Life After the Flood here: wvia.org/agnes

On the evening of June 23rd WVIA TV will present an evening of programming that will include a live hour-long episode of Keystone Edition with area experts discussing the impact of Hurricane Agnes on our region at 7 p.m., followed by a special broadcast of the 1997 historical documentary Remembering Agnes at 8 p.m. The WVIA original film, Agnes 50: Life After the Flood, premieres at 9 p.m., followed by the WSKG original production Agnes: The Flood of ’72.

In addition, Memories of Agnes, a digital series, will launch in spring 2022. This series will provide those who lived through the Agnes disaster the opportunity to share their first-hand accounts of the flood through user-generated content and archival film and photos. 

WVIA News will feature a companion series of stories on WVIA Radio and at wvia.org/news throughout the coming months that will cover additional aspects of our region’s history with flooding.

Learn more about WVIA’s Agnes 50 initiative at wvia.org/agnes

About Agnes 50: Life After the Flood

What have we learned in the years since Agnes? What actions have communities taken since that date? To properly explore the fallout from Agnes over the past five decades and to assess steps our region is taking or should be taking in order to prepare for the challenges of 

inevitable flooding in the future, WVIA will premiere a feature documentary directed by award-winning filmmaker Alexander Monelli that will cover key communities along the Susquehanna River, including Berwick, Bloomsburg, Danville, Forty Fort, Milton, West Pittston, Selinsgrove, Tunkhannock, Towanda, and Wilkes-Barre.  

Various officials, residents, and community leaders will share memories of Agnes, describe how their towns were affected, and discuss the work that has been done over the years to mitigate the adverse effects of future flooding. Interviewees include David DeCosmo (former WYOU news broadcaster), Andrew Stuhl (professor at Bucknell University), Lara Fowler (professor at Penn State University), Wilkes-Barre Fire Chief Jay Delaney, Jim Charles (Selinsgrove Flood Task Force), Chris Belleman (Executive Director, Luzerne County Flood Protection Authority), among others.

“This documentary is really about the people of the Susquehanna watershed and how we’re all connected,” said the film’s director Alexander Monelli. “When I started this film, I never knew there were so many issues related to flooding, and they’ve been ongoing since 1972. What one town does to mitigate flooding may impact another town downstream. It raises questions about our responsibility to our own community, our neighbors downstream, and nature as a whole. I’ve met so many fascinating people while filming, and I can’t wait to share this documentary with everyone.”

“As the region’s premier storytellers, we believe sharing the stories of Hurricane Agnes and the communities affected will help shine a light for future generations to learn from,” said Ben Payavis II, WVIA Chief Content Officer. “The topic and its ramifications are so large that we knew one program alone wouldn’t be enough to cover its scope. That is why we have created this multiplatform initiative and full evening of programming.”

“Education is at the core of what we do at WVIA, and we believe that preserving and learning from our local history is essential to the growth and future of our communities,” said Carla McCabe, WVIA President, and CEO. “In addition to the creation of this new documentary, WVIA Education will be creating a curriculum plan based on WVIA’s Remembering Agnes and Agnes 50: Life After the Flood documentaries that will be made available to all area school districts.”

WVIA June 23rd, 2022, Television Programming

7 p.m. – Keystone Edition Reports: Agnes 50 – Live Broadcast

Fifty years ago, life in the Susquehanna Valley changed forever as Hurricane Agnes devastated the area, and the Susquehanna River inundated homes and streets, destroying everything it touched. Keystone Edition Reports takes a look back at the toll Agnes took, how the valley bounced back, and what the future holds. 

8 p.m. – Remembering Agnes – Remastered

A special presentation of the remastered 1997 historic documentary. Eyewitnesses reminisce about the hours just before, during, and after the worst natural disaster to devastate the east branch of the Susquehanna River Valley in the greater Wilkes-Barre/Scranton metropolitan area of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Hurricane Agnes and the resulting flood occurred in late June 1972 and affected thousands ever since.

9 p.m. – Agnes 50: Life After the Flood – Broadcast Premiere

On Friday, June 23, 1972, Pennsylvania suffered the wrath of Hurricane Agnes, which at the time was the costliest hurricane to hit the United States and would claim the lives of 128 people in the storm’s path. Now, at the 50th anniversary, WVIA explores what we as a region have learned from the Agnes tragedy. Half a century later, how did this epic event permanently change our communities – economically, physically, and emotionally? What have local communities done over the past decades to address and mitigate potential flooding in the future? Have we done enough?

Followed by Agnes: The Flood of ’72

On June 19th, 1972, the first hurricane of the season, Agnes, crossed over the Florida Panhandle and quickly headed back out to sea. With sustained winds of just over 75 miles per hour, Agnes was considered a low-level threat by most weather experts. They were wrong. By June 22nd the remnants of Agnes stalled over the northeastern United States, dumping up to 22 inches of rain in some areas, including the Elmira/Corning region of New York. The devastating flooding that followed would result in one of the worst natural disasters in the region’s history and change the landscape of the region forever. Produced by WSKG.

This special block of programming will re-air on Saturday, June 25th beginning at 7 p.m. and on Sunday, June 26th beginning at noon.

WVIA to Air Special Rebroadcast of War Stories: Pat Solano

In remembrance of Pat Solano, WVIA will air a special rebroadcast of the award-winning original documentary film War Stories: Pat Solano on Friday, January 29th at 7:30pm and on Sunday, January 31st at 1:30pm on WVIA TV.

Solano, a resident of Pittston Township, was a decorated veteran of World War II having completed 23 combat missions with the Eighth U.S. Air Force Heavy Bombardment Group. During his military career he earned multiple military honors and medals.

For more information and to watch War Stories: Pat Solano on-demand please visit https://on-demand.wvia.org/video/wvia-special-presentations-war-stories-pat-solano/