CERES -- A team of Pitman High School students found their dodgeball groove in the closets and dresser drawers of their sisters and girlfriends.
The all-male team, called "Off Constantly," pulled on the teeniest hot shorts they could find, snapped on sweatbands and fluorescent tube socks, and nearly made it to the finals of the first Ceres Old School Dodgeball Tournament on Saturday.
"If you wear short shorts, you can move better," team member Nate Thompson explained.
"Off Constantly" eventually fell to a more experienced team with Pitman High alums, who won the first championship plaque. They called themselves "Schwindlers Turlock," which is German for "Dodgers" or "Backstabbers," depending on which player you ask.
The Schwindlers aren't new to dodgeball. They've competed in Stockton, Los Angeles and Fresno as part of a national amateur league. They used defensive plays and special throwing techniques to win the adult division over nearly three flesh-stinging hours of competition at Central Valley High School.
"It was rad. It kind of brought back memories," said Chad Schlundt, 19.
Many people know the rules of dodgeball from less-than-pleasant experiences in school gym classes. While there are many variations, each game involves players trying to avoid being hit by a ball thrown by the other team. Once hit, a player is out. The win goes to the team left standing.
City Councilman Bret Durossette's team, "The Has Beens," took second place. A pair of red sweat pants under his wife's gym shorts helped Durossette endure only bruised pride after their team's first game.
"I was bragging about being the one to save our team," Durossette said. "But I was the first one out."
Ceres Recreation Department and Ceres Youth Commission organizers were surprised by the large number of players -- there were 36 teams -- and the hundreds of spectators who came to cheer and hiss after every hard hit.
And there was no shortage of throwback uniforms to convince onlookers that fluorescent dancewear is back in style -- from tights and leg warmers to sweatbands in every color.
Organizers are considering expanding the event to a two-day tournament next year.
"We're overwhelmed, but we're overjoyed," said City Manager Brad Kilger.
Some teams of six-to-10 players pitted teachers against teachers and teachers against their students. A game of the "Has Beens" versus the "Flame-Throwing Dodgeball Monkeys of Argentina" matched Ceres and Central Valley high school teachers against teachers from Mae Hensley Junior High in Ceres.
In the teen bracket, the "Jackson 6" took the top spot. The group of Turlock and Pitman high schoolers put the team together just three hours before the event.
"We wanted to take some anger out," said Arnold Velasquez, 16.
Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2337.