Chris and Matt Brandau, twin brothers and junior standouts on the Boys' Latin lacrosse team, have always kept score.
Whether it's whiffle ball in the backyard, a video game in the living room or a test score in class, a winner is declared and the loser hears all about it.
But nothing has brought out more competition from the two than playing lacrosse, and in that case, both are big winners.
Chris has shined in his first season as the No. 3 Lakers' starting goalie. Matt, an attackman in his second season, has become a key component in the team's highly skilled offense.
Collectively, they have played major roles in helping Boys' Latin (13-5) earn the second seed and a first-round bye in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference playoffs with a 7-2 league mark. The quarterfinals are set for Friday with the Lakers opening the postseason in Monday's semifinals at Johns Hopkins' Homewood Field. The championship game returns there Thursday.
The brothers' success is intertwined and goes back to their childhood days: Matt shooting on Chris over and over and over. Matt scored some, Chris stopped some. Just don't ask who got the better of it.
"We have such a close relationship and not every outing on the field ended well — a lot of screaming, and throwing gloves and balls at each other," Matt said with a laugh. "But at the end of the day, we're out there because we want to make each other better. I'm sure you can see our reactions toward each other — I probably freak out more when he makes a big save than when I score a big goal."
Going into the playoffs, Chris has turned back 201 shots for a .604 save percentage. When the ball has been in Matt's stick, good things have happened as he has 30 goals and 34 assists.
While spending last season behind graduated All-Metro goalie Jack Pezzulla, Chris listened, learned and then showed he was primed to take over the starting job. Coach Brian Farrell and his teammates were so impressed with his preparation going into the season that he was named a captain, and Matt hears about it all the time.
After making a considerable contribution on last season's attack, Matt has taken on even more this year with an ability to come through in big moments.
The brothers' high skills, work ethic and team-first approach have been essential in the Lakers’ success.
"They are culture guys," Farrell said. "They're guys you want on your team to help build your program because they set an example for everybody else.
"Matt is doing a great job alongside some of our seniors controlling our offense and Chris is the captain of our defense basically. So for juniors to be able to make that kind of impact is special."
The twins decided to take separate paths in college, Chris making a commitment to Georgetown while Matt is set to play at Yale. The decision puts a greater premium on the importance of making the most of the time they have left to play together in high school.
Often, juniors might think they always have their senior year left, but the Brandaus are taking nothing for granted with the fine opportunity this season brings.
"We talk about it a lot, that this is the only time we can play with this group of guys and next year will be a clean slate," Chris said. "Knowing that I only have one more year after this playing with my brother makes me want to put even more into this year and next — really grind it out with him because we're not going to get the chance again."
The fun the twins had watching their older half-brother Tim (McDonogh, Bucknell) play swayed them to lacrosse over baseball, basketball and the other sports they played growing up. They were 2 years old when a McDonogh parent gave them each a soft lacrosse stick while Tim was playing an indoor game. Attending a youth summer camp at Towson when they were 6 years old, Chris got his first taste of playing in the cage and showed a knack while Matt was content to fire shots.
Living minutes away from St. Paul's, which they attended through middle school, they could always find an open cage to work on their respective crafts with their father, Mark, feeding passes to Matt and going from there.
"Obviously, it has benefited them both greatly because any time Chris wanted to see shots, it was in the room next to him," Mark said. "And to go shoot on a goal is one thing, but to shoot on a goalie is completely different. Through the years, they were each others' greatest supporters and they pushed each other like no one else can."
McDonogh coach Andy Hilgartner has seen the Brandau twins' emergence and said it's bad news for Boys' Latin's opponents.
"They've continued to get better and better on the field," he said. "What you have in the two brothers is very skilled players at what they do, but you also have great character guys with strong leadership abilities. When two of your best players are also two of your hardest workers and your best leaders, it really influences the team in a major way and I think that's what BL has in those two. They're going to be a nightmare for opposing coaches for the rest of this season and next year."
Like their work on the field, the twins are making sure to savor it all — time in the classroom, car rides after a win and dinner talk their father describes as priceless.
Recently around the table, Matt was talking about his day and realized Chris wasn't paying attention, instead busy texting on his phone.
Chris nonchalantly chirped: "Oh, sorry, just captain stuff."
It was just one more fun jab of many and Matt was quick to counter.
Chris was the first to take the ACT test and was quick to text Matt his score with a bold prediction at the end: "There's no way you're topping that."
When Matt took his test a couple of weeks later and his score was better than Chris', there was no question who he would tell first. He texted Chris immediately: "Hey, just wanted to let you know if you needed any tutoring help, just come to me."
On the field, the banter ends. During pregame warmups, Chris always takes two last shots from Matt — one offside high and the other offside low.
"It's really cool because we've been doing it since we've played as kids," Matt said. "I always smile at him and we give each other knuckles before going to the huddle."