MADEIRA, Ohio -- At Madeira High School, Dart Wars -- an annual team-based Nerf competition played across the Tri-State -- is serious business. Junior Ed Smith and his teammates wake up early and stay up late so they can camp out in front of competitors' homes and dart them when they least expect it.
"We'd drive to my friend Drew's house and they'd be waiting for us, so we pull into the garage and we get out and start shooting at them," he said Wednesday.
For Smith, it's all about having fun and potentially snagging a $100-per-person prize at the end of the month. Teammate Drew Evans said he and the rest of Team Orange Crush work hard to follow the rules: Don't shoot someone while they're driving; don't shoot them on school grounds; don't shoot them at sports practice, among others.
According to Blush Ash Lt. Roger Pohlman, however, the enthusiasm doesn't translate to the ordinary people who see teenagers behaving as though they're ready for a John Wick-style shootout. His department recently arrested a pair of teenagers for disorderly conduct after they used their cars to block an intersection in order to corner another player.
The anxiety is worse at nighttime, when homeowners might see apparently armed teenagers creeping around their neighborhoods.
"We get calls of prowlers around the house," he said. "They might think someone's trying to break into their house, break into their car."
And when officers arrive at the scene after a call like that, it's their job to assume it might be dangerous.
"Our officers go there, sometimes with guns drawn if it's reported that the person has a gun," he said. "It could become a potentially serious situation."
Pohlman urged any scruffy-looking Nerf herders participating in Dart Wars to avoid striving for realism in the way they dress or decorate their dart guns. If police arrive at a scene and see a black-clad group holding black guns, they are more likely to assume the worst; if they see a team holding the bright orange guns that are Nerf's signature, everyone involved is more likely to go home safely.