Angels of Death ascend to victory at annual tournament

Event reaps rewards for high schoolers, serves as outreach opportunity

By Mary M. Rall
Community Covenant Church

Jonathan Cannamore launches a dodgeball at a competitor Nov. 29 at the 2014 Community Covenant Church Dodgeball Tournament in Eagle River, Alaska. Cannamore competed as a member of the Angels of Death, one of 16 teams that participated in the annual event. (Photo by Chris Rutz/Community Covenant Church)

Jonathan Cannamore launches a dodgeball at a competitor Nov. 29 at the 2014 Community Covenant Church Dodgeball Tournament in Eagle River, Alaska. Cannamore competed as a member of the Angels of Death, one of 16 teams that participated in the annual event. (Photo by Chris Rutz/Community Covenant Church)

EAGLE RIVER, Alaska ˗ The Angels of Death claimed victory over the opposition in a fury of dodgeballs Nov. 29 at the 2014 Community Covenant Church Dodgeball Tournament in Eagle River, Alaska.

Sixteen teams from throughout the Eagle River and Anchorage areas competed for supremacy at the seventh annual event, which featured teams of junior and high schoolers, seasoned adults, soldiers and sponsored teams representing area businesses, said Mike Alverts, the CCC High School and Young Adult Program director.

“It wasn’t about winning, it was about people,” Alverts said, noting there was a visible level of role modeling and diversity present at the event. “Those are strong Alaskan dynamics that were added, and I was joyful to share in that.”

The tournament raised about $2,400 to help CCC high schoolers attend Covenant High in Christ, a youth conference in Knoxville, Tenn., in July, and more than $560 to benefit Foster the Forgotten, a non-profit that supports impoverished Kenyan orphans, Alverts said.

Although outreach and fundraising were primary factors for featuring the event, Angels of Death Team Captain Jared Bergstrom of Eagle River said he was playing to win as well.

The 22 year old captained a team the six previous years of the event, and said his first title win was hard fought for against the teams of The Dangerous 8 and Forged, who respectively earned second and third place in this year’s tournament.

“The competition was pretty tough,” Bergstrom said. “There were some good teams that we went up against, and I had no idea how we would do against those teams.”

The first and second place honors for the Angels of Death and The Dangerous 8 were the source of some good-natured ribbing between the two teams, said Nathaniel Swanberg, The Dangerous 8’s team captain.

“We’ve talked about it for awhile ˗ about how awesome it would be to play them in the finals,” Swanberg said, who has known Bergstrom for 13 years.

This is the third consecutive year the 17-year-old Eagle River resident has captained a team, and Swanberg expressed confidence in his players’ abilities, but said he knew winning wasn’t a given.

“When we faced hard teams and we beat them still, that definitely helped us know that we could do well,” Swanberg said, all the while giving credit to the level of cohesion demonstrated by the Angels of Death. “The way they worked together as a team was great.”

Bergstrom said patience was key to his strategy at the tournament as well, explaining his team avoided charging the court’s center line, where the dodgeballs were staged at the beginning of each match.

“I ran up to the line in the first game and ended up losing,” he said. “We realized that if we stayed back, we would have a better chance.”

Bergstrom said the tactic helped the Angels of Death win every subsequent round of the competition and the tournament as a whole, an honor he said he ultimately achieved in tribute to former CCC Youth Pastor Jeff Keyser.

Keyser, who is currently attending seminary at Moody Theological Seminary in Plymouth, Mich., led the Angels of Death to a first-place victory in 2012. He said he enthusiastically passed the mantle of captaining the team to Bergstrom.

“I handed the team over to Jared, hoping he could put together a team that would get another championship,” Keyser said. “I’m super happy for them.”

Bergstrom said he’s not quite ready to stop at just one victory, though, and committed to defending his title in the 2015 tournament.

“He predicted the outcome,” Alverts said of Bergstrom. “He told the Swanberg boys he was going to beat them in the finals, and that’s exactly what happened.”

Players and participants alike will have to wait until next November to know if another win is in the cards for the Angels of Death, though, and only time will tell if Bergstrom’s call for a second consecutive win is coincidental or prophetic in nature.