At first glance, and even a bit longer, it’s just about impossible for most to tell identical twin brothers Grant and Connor Mitchell apart.
They have the same broad athletic builds, the same welcoming disposition, and, as twins often do, will finish each other’s sentences in the midst of a conversation.
As standout senior midfielders on the No. 1 Calvert Hall lacrosse team, they also share many top qualities, such as their size and power (both 6-foot-1, 195 pounds), making them tough for opponents to match up against.
But each one brings his own unique strengths to the field, which helps bring home wins for the two-time defending Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference champions.
“For starters, Connor is a lefty and Grant is a righty,” said Calvert Hall coach Bryan Kelly. “The difference in their games is Grant is really good in between the lines and he’s an outstanding shooter on the run, and then Connor is very good off the ball and is very strong in our half-field offense.”
In 2017, the Cardinals hit the lacrosse lottery when the Mitchell family decided to move from Atlanta to give the twins an opportunity to play high school lacrosse at the highest level. The two grew up also playing football, baseball and ice hockey, but lacrosse took center stage during their middle school years and they excelled to the point of committing to Ohio State in their freshman years.
Having played in club tournaments during the summer months up north and hearing about the MIAA A Conference from the buzz that came when Boys’ Latin would come down to play games in Atlanta, the brothers welcomed the opportunity to polish their skills at Calvert Hall.
“They are in the middle of five kids and our older two were done with school, so we gave them the opportunity to chase their dream and see what happens,” said their mother, Stacy. “We just kind of looked at it like we’re going try this, and if it doesn’t work out, we can always go back [to Atlanta]. Regardless, it was going to be a learning experience one way or the other and we just felt they would be way more prepared for college having gone through this experience, and that is definitely what happened.”
The twins, who are both A students, have considerably expanded their games in three varsity seasons at Calvert Hall, which hosts No. 2 St. Paul’s (10-2, 6-1 MIAA A Conference) on Tuesday.
Both dominant dodgers with the ball usually in their sticks during their days in Atlanta, they have learned how to play efficiently off the ball, in more elaborate defensive schemes and stronger team play.
With each day in practice and the steady stream of quality MIAA opponents during games, they have significantly improved. In 13 games for the Cardinals (12-1, 7-0), Grant has has 24 goals and 14 assists with Connor, who missed all but a couple games last season because of lingering hamstring injuries, adding 14 goals and 13 assists.
Just how far have they come in their time at Calvert Hall?
“I’d say exponentially,” said Grant, who earned All-Metro first-team honors as a junior. “I think my game is 10 times better than it was and I don’t think I’d be anywhere near where I’m at right now.”
The long way the twins have come — going to a new school in a new city with the task of meeting new friends — has been eased by having each other. It’s always been like that with the two enjoying many of the same things, while also having independent views. While Connor is more social and easygoing, Grant is more serious and detail-oriented.
As toddlers, the Mitchell house had child-proof gates for just about every room, but that wouldn’t stop Grant from making a run for it.
“They were a little over 1-year-old and Grant would convince Connor to lean back on the corner of the gate so Grant could crawl underneath,” Stacy Mitchell said. “And then Grant would be gone and Connor would stand inside the gate crying, waiting for someone to come and let him out. And it would happen over and over.”
Whatever it was, even who could finish their cereal faster, it would be a competition between the two. But it never got in the way of their strong bond and helping each other grow.
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“When we’re playing, if Connor was shooting well that day, playing well or doing something that I wanted to mimic, we’d go home and work on it. We always grew up knowing we could lean on each other and we always have someone to compete with, so we’re never bored at the house,” Grant said.
Now team captains, they are savoring the role of teaching their younger teammates what they have learned with an eye on another MIAA championship. They’re also well-aware of the camaraderie that comes with playing in the league and the new friendships they have formed in Baltimore’s rich lacrosse community.
“I think it’s cool because people always said, ‘you’ll have club buddies [from other schools] and hang out with them over the weekends,’ but then when you’re in season, you’re butting heads with your best buddies. I think that’s one of the coolest parts,” Connor said.
“They’re super athletic, super smart, capable with both hands, great downhill dodgers,” Boys’ Latin coach Brian Farrell said. “It makes it hard to defend because you know they can dodge polls and short-sticks, so you have to know where they are at all times. They have a lot in their arsenal and make it tough.”