He was dressed in cherry red tee shirt and shorts and was huffing and puffing to his seat at an upper Connecticut Avenue pub.

"Hey, Gib," one of the regulars called out, "did you forget your white bear and reindeer?"

Bill Gibney, who would have a tough time fitting through anyone's chimmey, had just finished under-the-lights lacrosse practice. His team is the Montgomery Lacrosse Club of the Central Atlantic Lacrosse League.

From the time they enter the parking lot of the junior high school where they change clothes ("Hey, what 'ya drinking?" "Bourbon, it's good for you"), until the last beer is quaffed at the postgame party, action in the Central Atlantic League is easy, informal and low-key.

With the exception, of course, of when the relative merits of officials are discussed in the heat of the game.

Other than that, it could be just another family outing. At least it seemed like one on a recent Sunday at the field next Ayriawn Elementary School in Bethesda.

Tots no bigger than the lacrosse sticks they were wielding were trying to imitate their dads on the side of the field - "Nice shot, Billy," said one mother as her pride bounced a ball off the foot of a bystander.

Dogs scampered along the sidelines, fighting or chasing loose balls. Late in the second half one decided he liked it better on the field. "Either give him a stick or get him off the field," groused one player.

The game was between the Columba Lacrosse Club and the host Montgomery Lacrosse Club. Columbia was the league champion in its first year of operation in 1976.

The Central Atlantic League, 10 teams strong ranging from Montgomery County in the south to Philadelphia and Morristown, N.J., in the north, and from Chestertown, Md., on the Eastern Shore to Hagerstown in the west, is hardly the big leagues of amateur lacrosse.

The teams mostly are offshoots of the old "B" teams of clubs playing in the premier U.S. Club Lacrosse Association. Montgomery, for example, is the old Bowie Lacrosse Club "B" team.

The players are a mixed bag of oldsters who can't keep up any longer, former regulars at non lacrosse-power schools, some who went to places like Maryland or Johns Hopkins but were not good enough to earn their letters, and youngsters who might eventally graduate to the major circuit.

Each team plays a 12-game schedule, including seven league games. The Montgomery team also practices twice a week. The players pay $32.50 a year for expenses, for which Montgomery County provides a field, lines it and provides cages.

The game against Columbia started out competitively enough. The visitors jumped out to an early lead, even though Montgomery had the territorial advantage for most of the first period. Even Montgomery coach Jon Weston was not unduly concerned in the early going.

"Get him on the head?" Weston asked one of his players charged with a penalty.

"Just grazed him a little bit," came the reply.

"Okay," said Weston, "you got him on th head."

Moments later, with the Montgomery player still sitting out the penalty, Columbia scored its third goal.

After more penalties against Montgomery, Weston tried a different tactic.

"Mister Ref," he yelled, "I've got a problem . . . Yeah, I'll take a time out."

"It cost us a time out," he told his troops after conferring with the referee, "but maybe we'll get the next one (call)."

Columbia ran up the advantage to 6-2, but two quick goals near the end of the first half brought Montgomery back to 6-4.

Then came the deluge - nine unanswered third-period goals by Columbia.

Finally, with less than two minutes left in the third period, the Gibney attack line was inserted, signifying the game was all but over. "Anyone want a beer?" asked one of the players being replaced.

The Mongtomery midfield was having such a difficult time clearing that the Gibney attack line never broke a sweat the rest of the period. It was little better when they re-entered near the end of the 18-5 romp. They got off one shot and Gibney had one chance to smell the Columbia goalie's breath.

From there it was to the cold beer in the trunk of Gibney's Jaguar and, after showering, members of both teams and their entourage went to the house of one of the Montgomery players for a party.

"Our team has always had parties for the visiting teams, said goalie and club vice president Steve Magdits. "A couple of weeks ago it turned out that one of our players had played for Maryland and a guy on the other team played for Penn back in 1957. They had a great time remembering guys they had played with and against.

"Imagine! Back in 1957 I hadn't even begun thinking about lacrosse and these guys were playing for major schools."

Magdits is used to obscurity.He played for Stevens Institute in Hoboken, N.J., where the spectators consisted of players not in the game as the time.

"We had a game at Swarthmore one time and as soon as we got off the team bus we got mugged by a bunch of girls. We got so shook up at seeing girls at the game we never got untracked and lost, 6-5."

Glory is something Weston has never seen, either. He went to Hopkins but was not good enough to play for that powerhouse squad. He joined the Carling club team for a year and then played five years with Bowie before haning it up.

He was out of the game for two years until he was asked to return to coach. "I was ready, anyway," he said of his return. "If they didn't ask me I'd have come back as a player."

Why do these men, many in their 30s who never have received nor expect to receive plaudits, continue to play a young man's game?

Like loyal follower Sancho Panza, who stood by Don Quixote because "I like him," Weston said he stays involved with lacrosse because "I like it."

He could have been speaking for all the players.