By Chapin Jewell
KEYSER – Few people know Keyser Golden Tornado football like Randy Cirillo. He played for Keyser High, has been a fan of Keyser High, has served as the public address announcer since 2012, as an equipment manager since 2016, and most recently, as a chief researcher of all things Black and Gold.
Randy doesn’t know just a thing or two about Keyser football, he knows a thing or two-thousand. And what he doesn’t already know, he’s likely going to eventually find out.
Cirillo, through painstaking research, although he’s the first to tell you he loves every minute of it, is cataloging just about everything anybody will want to know about Keyser High School football. Historical rosters, every game story, individual and team statistics, you name it. Already a great resource and building larger and more detailed by the day, Cirillo’s work will prove to be a treasure trove of information for the school, program, and community.
“Somebody needs to be the keeper of history, and for me, it’s not just fun, it’s obsessive,” Cirillo recently explained.
Why not him? He’s a self-described numbers guy with a passion for Keyser High School and Golden Tornado football birthed during his own playing days and extending now some four decades later with the work he continues to do for the program.
Randy was a three-sport athlete at Keyser, football, wrestling and baseball, and a member of the class of 1978. He entered his first varsity game as a sophomore in the second half of a game against Ridgeley and then started the next 29 games on offense and was a two-year starter on defense.
“My junior year I had 97 tackles, and then in my senior year I had 162 tackles over ten games. In 1976 and 1977 I was named Keyser’s best offensive lineman,” Cirillo stated. “Both of those years I was All-PVC as a guard. My senior year I was second-team All-Area guard and I was All-State honorable mention along with Larry Kruk.”
As a four-year member of the wrestling team, Randy made it to the state tournament twice and received a trophy as the Most Valuable Senior Wrestler. As a baseball player, “Larry Kruk and I both got trophies in baseball saying we were the Most Valuable Players. Then I went on and played two years at Potomac State. I had an opportunity, I suppose I could have walked on at West Virginia. I also had two other offers, I could have went on West Virginia Wesleyan and at SUNY-Buffalo.”
After making his mark on the playing fields at Keyser High, Cirillo graduated from Potomac State and then West Virginia University, passed the CPA exam and went to work at a career and on raising a family. He became the chief financial officer for the Belt Company and then the general manager for Belt Paving when the paving operations began.
“You get away from it. I went to college and then after college you are married, you’re working, you’re concentrating on that. There was a period of time there when I probably didn’t see but two or three game, Cirillo stated. “But I always followed them, I would say from the late ’80s on. But me and George (Earnest), my father in law, we’ve been like regular spectators, and we’ve always followed them, no matter where they go.”
Then eventually, opportunities came calling that would bring Cirillo back into the fold of Keyser High School football.
“In 2012, we were at a summer party, Lori Wilson was there, and they were trying to fill the role of PA announcer. Jay and I were there, both of us, and we took the gig. So that gets you so much closer. Now, you’re not just a spectator, you now have a little bit of involvement,” Cirillo stated.
Then came another opportunity to get involved. “At the time, I don’t recall who was hauling their stuff, but Hayward Wilson owned the trailer. Somebody couldn’t be there for a particular game, and they asked if we would mind hauling it. This was back in 2016. We said, ‘sure, we’ll do it,’ and we’ve been doing it ever since.
“So now all of the sudden I thought, this is pretty good. At home football games I have 50-yard line seats, I’m under cover, I have heat in there, and have fun doing it. Then at away games, I’m on the sidelines with the best seat in the house on the 50-yard line, ground level. I’m just that much closer,” Cirillo explained.
In his role as the public address announcer, Cirillo always makes things interesting, particularly during pre-game when he is sure to provide those assembled with facts, figures, and any interesting stories applicable to the two teams playing that night. That takes research, and eventually, the numbers came calling more and more.
“What got me going into the historical aspect of it, of course you’re always interested in it anyway, but, just this past year, we were talking, Gavin Root threw four touchdown passes in a game. So that was the question, is that a record? Nobody knew. It was the same thing with the yardage he had, 290 yards. Was that a record? Nobody knew,” Cirillo explained.
According to Cirillo, “It gets you thinking about your past. You know, wouldn’t it be neat, for a variety of reasons, and from a historical perspective, just to have that, whatever you can accumulate?
“So, I started to build the rosters. From a historical perspective, it’s pretty neat. But the other thing is, maybe someday you want to do some fundraising. Obviously, you’re not going to fundraise with the guys that are on the 1936 team, but, maybe you want to get connected to some of the alumni, if possible. So, it may be of benefit to the school one day,” Cirillo explained.
When it comes to the numbers and the tedious research, Randy Cirillo is the man for the job.
“Numbers have always fascinated me. You’re talking to a guy that would open up the newspaper every morning in the summer when I was a youth, and I would religiously go through box scores for Major League Baseball teams,” Cirillo stated. “I would write down the lineups for the day and make comparisons, this and that.”
Though he’s already done extensive work, Randy still views his research as being in the preliminary stages. He scours whatever available data or stories that are out there, mostly from the Mineral News-Tribune or other local news outlets.
“Thus far, I think I have every game played through the last game of 2020. I’ve got everything in folders, 10 inches thick. That was number one, I’ve done that,” Cirillo stated. “I’m building game summaries, for each game, starting with the first games and working my way to current. Right now, I’m at 1961.”
The date, the stories serve to either pleasantly surprise or in some cases disappoint, all tied to the amount of detail the sportswriter put into the article. Some gave blow by blow, play by descriptions, some are scant on the details. It just depends on how much detail the sportswriter puts into the article. The statistics are either fully complete or there are many left unallocated.
“We’re going to know some stuff about some scoring. I’ve seen some really fantastic games that I’ve come across. For example, in 1959, Gary Keedy, he had so many chunk plays. He had a 95- yard run for a touchdown, he had an 85-yard run for a touchdown, a 40-yard run for a touchdown and a 35-yard run for a touchdown. In just four carries, he had 255 yards,” Cirillo detailed.
According to Cirillo, “The other motivation for all this is, you know, Seth (Earnest) changed his number from 12 to 39 to honor George (Earnest), his grandfather. Sammy Bradfield changed his number from 33 to 38 to honor his grandfather, Chuck Bradfield. So once we get through this COVID stuff I can get with them and say, look, this is what your grandfather did.”
It’s not all numbers. When looking back through game stories and articles, especially over 100 years worth, you’re sure to find many interesting stories, with many situations you could never duplicate today. Such is the case with Cirillo’s research. Here are a few examples:
“In the mid ’40s Keyser had a lineman named Thomas Shoemaker. In 1943, 1944, and 1945, we have record of him playing for ‘Tack’ Clark. I think he started in 1944 and 1945 and was all Potomac Valley Conference both years,” Cirillo stated. “Then, you didn’t see anything more of him until 1947. “Then I see in the article that ‘Tack’ Clark is pleasantly surprised that Shoemaker was coming back to play, he had quit school after his junior football season and spent 13 months in the Navy.
“I’ve seen some things that would never happen these days. There was a guy that got injured in a game up at the stadium in Cumberland, they took him off the field in an ambulance and took him to Memorial Hospital. Before the game was over, they transported him back to the stadium and he re-entered the game from the hospital. That would never happen today,” Cirillo explained.
According to Cirillo, “Scheduling flexibility in the 1940s was a big thing, it could happen on the spur of the moment if you needed it to. In 1943, ‘Tack’ Clark’s first year, they were in competition for the PVC title with Romney. They had played and tied and it was going to come down to who won the most number of games. So, Tack was able to schedule an extra game against Piedmont late in the year real quick so he would have more wins, and they won the title.”
Guys like Randy Cirillo are worth their weight in Gold, or in this case, Black and Gold. It’s one thing to have a love and a passion for your alma mater, and for a program, like in this case, Keyser Golden Tornado football. It’s an altogether different thing to couple that passion with actual work put in for the cause.
Randy Cirillo contributed to Keyser High School and Golden Tornado football as a student athlete, and now currently as the public address announcer and as an equipment manager. Now, add to his list of titles, chief researcher. Randy doesn’t mind the work. For him, it’s a labor of love.