Cross country runner Andre Bunton was looking at a lot of "HOR$E POWER" in the semifinals of the annual Juneau-Douglas High School lunchtime intramural dodgeball tournament Thursday.
Football players Silver Maake, Paul Tupou, Matthew Maka, and La Fifta each held a shiny red Tachikara dodgeball and wanted to put Bunton on the sideline with his fellow Bomb Squad teammates.
"The bigger they are the harder they fall," Bunton said. "They throw hard and move pretty fast, but I have good hands."
Bunton would elude three balls and catch the fourth, causing HOR$E POWER to lose a man and Bomb Squad captain Adam Nesheim to return to action. Bunton and Nesheim both caught throws, and soon it was just Maake, all alone, trying to elude five red rubber balls tossed by the defending champions.
"It reminded me of being on the playground in grade school," Maake laughed.
Thirty-one student teams, consisting of five players and two alternates per team, participated in the month-long double-elimination, random-pool draw tournament. Teams boasted such monikers as Alaskan Assassins, Black Plague, Butterflies, Fire Breathing Pony's, Immature, Kung Fu Pandas, No Class, Speedo Torpedoes, and Team Ice Cream. The KBM's were the only all-female squad, and Staff Infectionz represented the teaching core.
"The positive is it gets students more involved," JDHS PE teacher and intramural coordinator Kelly McCormick said. "We wanted a way to keep kids here at school during lunch. We do a lot of different things but this is the biggest interest, even the non-athletic types like to play. It's pretty cool. It's all ages and they pick their own teams. You know some of the stronger teams are going to be in final rounds, but you always find a team or two that gets in and you don't know what their trick is or special skill."
Dodgeball play begins with five balls lined up on the centerline. Teams rush from opposing end lines to the middle for a ball. Players must exit the game when hit by a ball, or an opponent catches a ball thrown by the opposite player. One player re-enters the game (in order) when a teammate catches a ball.
"It's all about the strategy," Bomb Squad's Aaron Cohen said. "Usually, (that means) all of us throwing at the same player at the same time."
Stepping over the centerline is an out, headshots count and balls are dead if they hit the ground or wall first. If a ball deflects off one teammate's ball and another teammate catches it, the thrower is out. Balls can be used to block throws. A player is out if a ball is knocked out of their hands (unless caught by another teammate). A player can drop a ball to catch another (referee's discretion).
A match has an overall time limit of 20 minutes. If the time limit is reached, the winning team is determined by the number of players in the game (a one-minute, sudden-death match of one selected player per side breaks a tie. A player must be hit to end the sudden death.) Matches are best two-out-of-three. Teams switch sides after each game.
In semi-final action, the baseball-rostered Librarians, previously known as the Lumberjacks, changed their timber-themed moniker but were disqualified for inappropriate court behavior and gestures against Da Patnas.
Da Patnas were the only nickname-powered team: biz ben (Ben Gelotte), Z dubs (Zach Workman), A-cam (Alex Campbell), Law Dogg (Andy Lawson), RB (Rhett Bennett), and nate perro (Nate Fosket).
With T-shirts and a pizza party awaiting the victors, the Bomb Squad sprinted to the centerline to take ball control first and whittled away their opponents for the first win. Game 2 featured an even first-ball draw, and clutch catches by Da Patnas to force a final game.
"It's skill with tactics," Zach Workman said. "It's a partnership, like our name. "
In a coordinated attack of two to four people ganging up on one opponent, the Bomb Squad slowly went through their opponents' line up. Da Patnas lone dodger, Alex Campbell, was last to go out.
"A repeat is pretty cool," Adam Nesheim said. "It's definitely a team win. We're all kind of captains. We throw from each angle and we usually throw low, and never one throw at a time."
"Two championships in a row is a great run," added Damon Ludwig. "You eat your vegetables, your Wheaties, all the fiber, and then ice the welts."