St. Albans senior twins Harry and Thomas Alford are identical everywhere but on the lacrosse field.
Harry Alford, a four-year starting goalkeeper, can be a bit flashy. He wore bright red pants for his first high school start. He played with an orange stick head as a freshman, a yellow one as a sophomore and a pinkish one last year. (His stick head this year is blue, the school's primary color.)
Thomas Alford, a starting midfielder, is almost as effective -- but does far less glamorous work, and with less noticeable equipment. He is one of the top faceoff men in the area and has emerged as a scoring threat for the Bulldogs.
"Harry has all the bright colors and wears bright shoes," St. Albans senior defenseman James Alfano said. "He loves the bright colors. Thomas? Not so much."
Both twins help give St. Albans hope that it can win its first Interstate Athletic Conference title this spring. The Bulldogs, 2-2 after one-goal losses to DeMatha and St. Paul's of Baltimore, have been runners-up to Landon 13 times since 1980, and they visit the top-ranked Bears (5-1) today at 4:30 p.m.
Off the field, the Alfords are pretty similar. Both are going to play for Maryland next year and plan on being roommates. They did not consider attending separate schools.
The twins said they had not spent a night apart until last summer. That includes the time the St. Albans football coaches assigned them to different rooms at the team's annual preseason camp in southern Virginia. When the coaches did the nightly bed check, Thomas and Harry were in their different rooms.
When the coaches went to wake them in the morning, however, they found either Thomas had snuck into Harry's room and slept on the floor, or vice versa.
The first time they spent the night apart came when Harry was at the three-day tryouts for the U.S. under-19 team in Catonsville, Md., last summer. He made the team, and will play in the under-19 world championships this summer.
Thomas was not one of the 120 players invited to try out. He did, however, go with St. Albans Coach Malcolm Lester and an assistant to watch the tryouts one afternoon.
"I was a little worried how Thomas would take it," Lester said. "But we were sitting there at UMBC, and every time Harry got a save, Thomas would cheer for him and talk to him under his breath. It was almost like it was involuntary."
The twins' bond was forged, however, by competition. They first played lacrosse for St. Albans in the sixth grade, soon after the family moved to Washington from Indiana. Thomas Alford recalled being thrown out of a game that year for getting into a fight -- with Harry.
"We were on the same team and everything," Thomas Alford said. "He and I got into it, and I was in the penalty box and he was on the field and was still yelling at me. I was pretty mad."
Eleven players from that sixth-grade team are seniors and still play for the Bulldogs. As eighth-graders, St. Albans lost to Landon by a goal when current Bears senior attackman Peter Lamade scored in the final seconds. A similarly close game could be on tap today, especially if either or both of the Alfords have strong games.
"Harry Alford is the best goalie in the metro area, hands down," said St. Mary's Ryken Coach John Sothoron, who was an all-American goalie at Towson in the 1970s. "He does everything well. And his brother's not bad at midfield, either."
Not surprisingly, the pair look out for each other. When Harry Alford was starting as a freshman, Thomas was a reserve and played sparingly. But their teammates noticed the pair would almost always sit next to each other on the bus to and from practice and games.
"Everyone knew who Harry was," Thomas Alford said. "He could have sat anywhere and with anyone. But he used to sit next to me and talk to me. He can always tell when I'm down or feeling bad, and he'll always say something that makes me feel better. . . . There's no way we could go to different colleges."
Said Harry: "We're just so close, ever since we were younger we've been best friends. Our goal has always been to go to the same school and win a national championship."