RAVENSWOOD — Once a year, the Ravenswood Elementary School community comes together to beat the crap out of each other — all in the name of good, clean fundraising.
Sixteen teams of 10, with five men and five women per side, competed in the school's third-annual adult Dodgeball tournament Friday, netting $5,000 for the school.
"This is one of those events everyone comes out for," said Principal Heather Connolly, who suited up for the faculty team. "It's really fun and becomes really competitive."
Team Spicy Nachos (with the slogan "We've got a lot of fire and don't go down easy") earned Best Name honors, while Team Ravenswood (made up of the school's teachers) snagged Best Costumes for their pirate-themed ensembles.
But when the whistle blew, it was game on.
During Friday night's three-hour, double-elimination tourney, the intensity on display reached a level this weekend's Super Bowl rivals will find difficult to match, including furor over blown calls.
"You are out! You are out!" shouted one competitor as he stalked across the court when the "honor system" of acknowledging a hit broke down in one of the contest's late rounds.
"Scary, lonely," was how Marc Sarran described his turn as last man standing for Team Ballas, facing an offensive barrage from the opposition. The balls used in the game, allegedly soft as Nerf, made an impressive "pow" on contact.
Making no bones about his team's goal, Matt Borst, captain of the tournament's returning champs — cleverly named Returning Champs — simply stated, "We want to crush everyone!"
Rumors swirled that Team Ravenswood, which employed a sneaky technique of hiding balls behind their backs, had gone so far as to practice in advance of the event — a strategy special-ed teacher Brittany Luxton confirmed.
"We have a serious coach," she said. "We came in second place last year. This is a big year for us."
In terms of demonstrating support for Ravenswood, it would be hard to top the effort made by Andy McSheffery, who went well beyond the extra mile for the tourney — driving all the way from his new home in Indianapolis to lead the Spicy Nachos.
McSheffery, a former member of Ravenswood's Local School Council, helped found the dodgeball competition three years ago and has committed to returning each year until his daughter reaches eighth grade.
"Look at this," he said. "You've got 200 people here. Everybody comes out and they're a kid for a night."
At the end of the night, Returning Champs — relying on a strategy of "throw hard and catch the ball" — had lived up to their name, besting Paulina Players in the final match.
While the Champs were already talking three-peat, their competitors headed to The Rail to drown their sorrows.
"I think it's an amazing community builder," said Wendy Vasquez, co-chair of Friends of Ravenswood and member of Team Balls 'n' Dolls.
"Five-thousand dollars is real money. But more important, it's just getting all these people together for this much fun."