August Kissel and Julia Skeval
On March 8, Jamesville DeWitt High School students assembled their teams, put on their spandex and dyed their hair; all for the sole cause: be the 2014 J-DHS Dodgeball Champions. The whole week before the games, teams gathered to come up with their names, thought long and hard about their strategies and finally, when it was time, made their way into the Main Gym, ready to throw and catch. Once told the rules the teams set off on their quests to win the ever coveted tournament.
However, these dreams could only come true for one team.
At half past three, the main gym was buzzing with chatter and full of pumped up spirits from middle and high schoolers alike. Counselor Will Hartley did the honors of presenting the bracket and announcing the rules, before representatives from the turf committee (JDCGAC) spoke to the players about where the proceeds were going and how the plans for a turf football field were in action. When it was time, the middle schoolers made their way up to the auxiliary gym while the high schoolers were splitting into teams, coaches giving last minute speeches before their teams were set to take down all competition.
Sophomore Jesse Johnson of eleventh ranked Ehkay Later, said his gameplan was simply to, “go hard, eat candy to stay hyped and crush our opponents like mice.” His teammates agreed, standing together eating Sour Patch Kids and fixing their homemade t-shirts with the team name written across the front. Other teams also put serious work into the perfect uniform. Black t-shirts with the letters TSFU printed on the chest were made by freshman Matt Cappelletti's mom, the entire team sporting the design. Most teams, in fact, went as far as getting professional shirts made; the B-Team’s Connor Hlywa designed his team’s light blue shirts, putting the quote, “expected to lose, ironic if we win,” proudly on the back. As expected, his team was out after the first round.
While it was all about appearance for some, others were more concentrated on creating the perfect strategy to plow through the rounds until the championship. The most common plan was to throw hard and catch any balls thrown their way. Senior Griffin Finer of Dodgie Style, a team expected to win, said, “we’re going to take out the weakest link first.” Hlywa had a more defensive strategy, saying, “We want to keep the fast people in the front so they can dodge quickly and then the people in the back can catch the balls.”
Once the tournament began, teams played timed games of 5 minutes per round and best two out of three rounds, only half remaining by the time 4 pm rolled around. Ninth ranked Dodgefathers, dressed in spandex tops with a tuxedo print, came off their first win pumped up and looking forward to their next win. “We made some mistakes that we’re looking to improve on,” said senior Josh Jaffe. Similarly, teams such as Last Round Draft Picks, The Ville, and Patrick and the Inferiors, came off their first round wins with enthusiasm and confidence in their teams that may have been found only in the seconds following their win. However, as The Ville, named for all players coming from the town of Jamesville, shows everyone, you don’t need a super smart gameplan to win. “We’re really just here to play some dodgeball,” said freshman and team coach Vincenzo Digristina.
However, as everyone knows, with winners, there must also be teams who walked away with a loss. “This loss is so sad; I feel the need to cry,” said freshman Josh Kowalczyk of Ball Busters. Teams facing the same fate felt a variety of emotions, ranging from disappointment that they had let their team down to complaining about the $5 they had to chip in for their team to be able to compete. A common comment made after losing was that it was all the referees’ fault. Exploogers and Patrick and the Inferiors both thought they could have come out with a win if some calls had been made differently. “I’m angry with the refs, I’m really so disappointed,” said junior Jacob Saletsky of Patrick and the Inferiors.
And as teams got closer and closer to the finals, stakes were raised and emotions were heightened, especially for the unfortunate students leaving without the win. Josh Frank of Team Name called it, “disappointing,” to have been on the winning team last year and then lose in only the second round of play. After winning in the quarter finals, but failing to advance to the championship, sophomore Dylan McGee said the loss was tough; “we went great all season, we just had a bad day. We won in our hearts.”
The tournament rolled on, round after round, game after game, until the semi-finals, when everything stopped for what had began as a simple attempt to catch a ball. Jumping for a high ball and then diving to the ground, Dodgefather’s senior Nick Street tripped over his teammate and landed on his head. The gym slowly went silent when Street failed to get up. Afters several minutes of confusion and paused play, with parents gathering around Street, paramedics arrived and Street was taken to the hospital with a concussion and laceration above his ear. He is okay and returned to school on the Monday following the tournament. Street’s team, The Dodgefathers, went on to win their game against Snipe!. “This game meant more, and it felt good to win knowing that Nick was going to be okay,” said his teammate Jaffe. The loss for team Snipe! was not so much heartbreaking, as it was full of relief that Street would be okay. “The loss was bad, but what happened to Nick is way more important,” said Snipe! senior Morgan Sawyer
The games began once again, after everyone was assured that Street would be okay. Teams dropped off left and right. Finally, it all came down to Shock the Nation and Neanderthals with Accomplishments. The two teams battled out for three rounds, but Shock the Nation emerged as winner. The win came after a one-on-one, a single player from each team on the court, so much riding on both of their shoulders. “Jacob Binder pulled through! We did shock the nation,” said junior Brian Ceplicki, him and his teammates clearly ecstatic by the win.