The Exterminators charged over the hill like a horde of guerillas in a time warp. There was no war, but their blood-curdling battle whoops, fatigues and unholstered pistols bespoke fierce conflict of some sort.
Robin Britt, the captain of the Exterminators -- who earlier in the battle had been "killed" by a freak shot -- turned and hollered to his cohorts: "What happened?"
"We captured the flag!" came back the reply from the men who fight under the flag of Britt's American Pest Control Co. of Annapolis.
Shane Ohrvall, a rangy carpenter decked out in full jungle regalia, said, "We wasted 'em and took the flag and got back with two seconds to spare."
During the week, they are truckers, heavy equipment operators, laborers and businessmen. But on the weekend, the Exterminators shed their identities to become warriors in make-believe battles called Survival Games.
The games, described by Maryland area organizer Joe Hastings as a diversion in which "everybody gets to let their hair down," have been played around the country for about 2 1/2 years and were formally organized here by Hastings and his partner Rick Marr, both of Seabrook, about a year ago.
They purchased "dealership" rights from National Survival Games, based in New London, N.H., and supervise a variety of formal and casual play on weekends at the Belvoir Farm, a rambling spread located on Rte. 178 between Annapolis and Crownsville.
Played in a densely wooded area about 1,500 feet long and 1,200 feet wide, Survival Games pit teams of 15 or more, the object being to capture the other team's flag with a minimum of casualties -- which are inflicted by pistols that fire paint-filled gelatin capsules.
"The game is like playing chess in the woods," said Hastings. "You use everything that works."
Saturday, a happy klatsch of Exterminators, back on neutral ground and indulging in the peaceable consumption of hot dogs and soft drinks, slapped each on the back and traded victory cliches.
"All right! "The bigger they are the tougher they fall. . . . " "We might have been down, but we came back!"
The Delta Dogs of Delaware had been "wasted" under a barrage of paint pellets from the Exterminators' cartridge pistols. But they would be back.
In fact, the Delta Dogs of Claymont, Del., would defeat the Exterminators twice the next day and claim the regional Survival Games championship.
Having disposed of the Exterminators, who are the Maryland state champs, the Delaware team will travel to Atlanta for the national championship tournament, Nov. 10 and 11.
Last Saturday at Belvoir Farm, converted for the time being into a French army's Revolutionary War encampment, the conflict was somewhat louder than chess. Seven top teams from New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware battled to earn the right to go to the nationals.
The contests mixed mostly silent, stratgic play in the field with boisterous lung-pumping on the sidelines.
Mike Cuocco, sponsor of a New York team called the Screaming Eagles, declared that his troops would sweep south like Gen. William T. Sherman on route to the national championships in Atlanta.
"What we're saying," noted Cuocco, his five-star cluster reflecting light into the eyes of his battle-hungry troops, "is, we'll be marching to Atlanta like Gen. Sherman."
Shouting "Exterminators die!" as they took the field against the Maryland squad, the Screaming Eagles were not so bold as Sherman and lost a closely contested, and mostly defensive, struggle in the woods of Belvoir Farm.