As he took the podium to honor the members of the Lycoming College football team at their annual awards banquet, Mike Clark, Lycoming’s head football coach and athletic director, had reason to be proud. While the 2017 season was not favorable from a win/loss standpoint, the accomplishments of his players and the support of the parents who entrusted their sons to his program filled the coach with both emotion and gratitude.
Before introducing his coaches and players, Clark paused to thank members of the Lycoming football family for the many behind the scenes services they provide to help his program function smoothly. Among them were Mike Cillo, the Person Field public address announcer, and Joe Garrison, longtime WBRE cameraman who has covered Lycoming College football for 25 years.
“A few years ago, Dick Zimmerman, who had been doing the public address announcing for Lycoming for many years, passed away. The college was on the lookout for someone who had announcing experience, and I had done that at Montoursville,” explained Cillo. “So after a few conversations, I changed Warriors from Montoursville to Lycoming. I had always followed Lycoming football and had Frank Girardi’s grandson as a student, so I was thrilled to become part of the Lycoming program. This will be my ninth season in the fall, and it truly has been enjoyable.”
From his press box perch, as a former defensive back, for Cillo, some of his most vivid calls and memories have emanated from that side of the ball.
“Watching the defensive backs and linemen intercept balls and knock them down and run them back for touchdowns is always special for me. To see that happen at this level is fantastic. The one moment that was very memorable to me was watching Coach Girardi have his statue unveiled at Person Field. The many people that turned out that day to honor Frank was really something very special.”
Fans attending Lycoming games are always reminded, “It’s a beautiful day for football” just before the kickoff.
“Between Joe Guistina (Lycoming College Associate A.D.) and myself, we wanted to bring back a smile right before kickoff no matter what the weather was. Football can be just an incredible way to start off your Saturday afternoon, so we thought that phrase would add a little something to Lycoming football. So I’ve been saying it right before every game.”
Roaming the sidelines for the past 25 years in his red WBRE jacket Joe Garrison has been a mainstay at Lycoming games.
“I moved to Lycoming County in the spring of 1993, and this has been a great experience for me. I’ve had the opportunity to cover both Lycoming College and high school sports. I have a really good time covering all the various sports and Lycoming is always fun. Lycoming has a top-notch program, and everything is well run, and I really look forward to it each and every year.
“I grew up in Luzerne County and went to Lock Haven University. So I grew up watching sports on television and knew that is what I wanted to do. I got my first job in television in Steubenville, Ohio, and eventually worked my way back to Williamsport. Even though I am not a native, I’ve been here more than half my life. I’ll never leave. I just love the area.
“It is always nice to be welcomed into a community. Sometimes people forget that I did not grow up around here. Early on I was treated as a little bit of an outsider because people didn’t know me. I would show up at games back in the 90s wanting to do well, and people would ask ‘who are you?’ As we got to know one another they adopted me as part of their Lycoming County family,” an appreciative Garrison explained.
Meeting television deadlines keeps Garrison on the move.
“Filming for television is all about good planning. I usually cover two games per each assignment, and I try to keep those games close together geographically. By doing it this way, it reduces my travel time between sites. I can’t cover two games that are far apart. There are those instances when Lycoming is the only game I am covering. That gives me a chance to spend more time on the field and can cover game action in both halves.
“Covering football is a challenge for two reasons. One, you have to endure the weather elements that include rain and snow. Second, there is no guarantee that you will get any points scored in the time you have to cover the game. We like to show touchdowns. We will show field goals, but we want scoring plays. Basketball is much easier to cover because you are indoors and are pretty much-guaranteed points.
“I enjoy covering any sporting event, but any time I get to cover a ‘do or die’ game — a win or go home — game; that is always special. That could be week ten in high school football that if a team wins they get the chance to play in the District playoffs. It could be a district championship game or a state championship game. It doesn’t matter what the sport, those kinds of games always stand out to me because they make a lot of good memories. The crowd is a little more amped up. The players are a little more into it, and the seniors realize this could be the last time they put on a uniform. All those variables come together for me as those ‘do or die’ games are often once in a lifetime games for those involved. For me, I get to experience those kinds of games year after year, but seeing how meaningful those games are to others makes for special memories.”
Note: While only snippets of his camera work make the nightly sportscasts, Garrison’s work can be followed more closely on Twitter at @JoeGarrisonNews or by checking out his Facebook page.