Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers



Years of Existence: 2002-2009
Venue: Wachovia Arena (Wilkes-Barre, PA)
Accomplishments:
2002
2003
2004 Northeast Division champions, semifinal appearance
2005 Quarterfinal appearance
2006 - Playoff appearance
2007 - American Conference champions, championship game appearance
2008 - Northeast Division champions, quarterfinal appearance
2009 - American Conference champions, championship game appearance
Lifetime Record: 93-50
Home: 59-16
Away: 34-32
Neutral: 0-2
Playoffs: 9-6
Average Attendance: 5,101

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers began as a very bad team in the AF2. In each of their first two seasons, the team finished 6-10 and a third season was in doubt. However, the Pioneers showed what they could do with one more chance, as they finished the regular season in 2004 at 13-3. They would earn a first round bye and win their quarterfinal match against their biggest rivals, the Cape Fear Wildcats. They would lose 41-31 in their semifinal match against the Florida Firecats, who went on to win the Arena Cup. The Pioneers would reach the playoffs again in 2005. In the first round, the Pioneers hosted the Green Bay Blizzard and won the game in the final minute, 48-41. This set up a rematch of last year's American Conference Championship game against Florida. This time the game was in Ft. Myers, but the result was the same. The Firecats ended the Pioneers' season for the second time in a row, 59-45. After hiring an AFL vetern in Rich Ingold, the Pioneers were ready for 2006. The team got out to a 5-0 start and things were rolling along smoothly. With the team 8-3, Rich Ingold sent star player and fan favorite JR Thomas to Everett, as the two did not see eye to eye on several issues. The team dropped into a four game losing streak, including the worst loss in franchise history, 45-14 at Manchester. In the final game of the year, the Pioneers broke the losing streak with a commanding 54-27 win over Albany. The team was ready for their playoff game at Manchester, but they came up on the short end of a 55-47 score. The Pioneers returned much better in 2007. Behind the arm of Ryan Vena and receivers like Buchie Ibeh, Jim Jones, and Larry Kendrick, the Pioneers won their first fourteen games. The team dropped a franchise record 94 points on the Cincinnati Jungle Kats. After resting some players, the Pioneers lost their first game at Manchester, 49-46. Two weeks later, behind the arm of backup quarterback Anthony Doria, the Pioneersl lost at Albany, 56-42. The Pioneers earned the top seed in the American Conference and took on Tri-Cities in the first round. Several former Pioneers played for the Fever and gave the Pioneers all they could handle. Wilkes-Barre escaped, 57-54 and advanced to meet Central Valley. A close first half turned into a second half blowout and the Pioneers would win again, 70-53. The Pioneers then met the Green Bay Blizzard, the 2006 conference champions. In another hard-fought game, the Pioneers topped the Blizzard, 46-43. The Pioneers advanced to ArenaCup for the first time and would play Tulsa. The game was back and forth all night until Ryan Vena fumbled inside the Tulsa 1 yard line. The fumble was taken back for a touchdown. The Pioneers had one final shot to tie the game and send it to overtime, but Vena's pass went through the hands of Buchie Ibeh as time expired. The Pioneers would lose, 73-66, in what is the best ArenaCup game ever. The Pioneers began 2008 with Rod Rutherford at quarterback and had to test out new kickers for the first three weeks of the year. However, three games into the year, Ryan Vena returned from New York and David Davis returned from Los Angeles. Rich Musinski also joined the squad. The new additions led the Pioneers to a 14-2 regular season record and readied them for another ArenaCup run. The Pioneers outscored their opponents by over 400 points in the regular season. The team hosted Quad City in the first round of the playoffs and took a 30-0 lead in the second quarter, winning the game 57-29. In the second round, the Pioneers hosted Tennessee Valley for the second time. After a 77-49 defeat in June, the Pioneers were ready to crush the Vipers again. However, after the loss of David Dean and Zack Love, the game turned defensive, and Vena was pressured most of the night. Tennessee Valley took a 34-30 lead with just seven seconds to go and the season was almost over. However, on a wild final play, J.J. Outlaw took a lateraled pass and ran all the way to the Tennessee Valley two yard line before just barely being pushed out of bounds. Outlaw had a path cleared to the enzone, but failed to turn up the field for the final two yards, ending a 21 game home win streak and the season for the Pioneers. Larry Kendrick returned a kickoff 56 yards for a touchdown in the game, the only Pioneers touchdown in the second half. Ryan Vena, JJ Outlaw, Michaeux Robinson, Chris Royal, and the rest of the star laden team returned for vengeance in 2009. The regular season was much the same, as the Pioneers cruised to a 13-3 record. Vena threw for 87 touchdowns and just ten picks. Newcomer to the team, Irving Campbell caught 18 scores. Larry Kendrick returned three picks for touchdowns on defense. David Davis went 96% on extra point kicks. However, two of the three losses came to perennial powers Spokane and Tulsa, and were a great concern to the team and its fans, as the Pioneers got out to very slow starts in both games. The team again earned the top seed in the American Conference and opened at home against division rival Albany in the first round. Vena and the team would crush the competition, 78-21. As the postseason continued, so did the dominance. Vena passed for 24 scores and just one pick in the three home games. A 47-14 second half notched a second round win over Kentucky, 82-49. Late defensive stands marked a 72-67 win over Green Bay in the conference title game and the Pioneers again advanced to the ArenaCup game, this time in Las Vegas. The team started very slow, falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter, before taking a 21-20 halftime lead. It all went down hill from there, as the Pioneers would be on the short end of a 54-6 second half rout in which Ryan Vena again crumbled under pressure. Following the 2009 season, the Pioneers went up for sale. A buyer was located, but the sale fell through and the team ceased operations.