It's been the story of the season.
Unfortunately for the Basalt soccer team, this story had a harsh ending.
A Longhorns offense that has fluctuated wildly between periods of dominance and stagnancy went cold on a warm Saturday in Arvada. No. 8 Faith Christian was not much better, but it made a late score hold up.
The Eagles' decided size advantage paid dividends. They scored on a corner kick with about 17 minutes remaining in regulation, then hung on to clinch a spot in next week's 3A state tournament quarterfinals.
Basalt (10-5-1), meanwhile, was denied a sixth trip to the round of eight in the last seven seasons.
"It was a tough day," Longhorns head coach Brent Hayes admitted. "Frankly, we were the better team. It wasn't by much. They were a good team that possessed well, but they didn't have a whole lot up top. They compressed on defense and waited for one mistake on the other team's defensive end or a quick counter.
"We did well at shutting that down, but we were worried about their size. Before the game, I told the players we couldn't afford to give them any corner kicks. ... That size is eventually going to win out."
The reigning state champion Eagles (8-8-1) produced just two corners in the match - "that shows they really weren't that good at getting the ball down to their end," Hayes said - but they made one count with about 16 minutes to play. Junior Cameron Doody, who scored once in Friday's 4-0 win over No. 25 Fountain Valley, leapt into the air in a crowded box and headed the ball past Basalt goalkeeper Adrian Lujan.
"It was a great kick. They got it where they needed to, and it was a quality finish," Hayes said. "It's happened before. We couldn't convert a PK against Denver Christian, and they did. We couldn't convert a PK against Moffat County, and they did. Today, we didn't convert on the things we needed to. I have to take a lot of the responsibility for not having the team ready for that kind of stuff.
"It's frustrating to lose on a set piece in a game that could've gone either way. We definitely possessed better, but we didn't finish. I've been talking about it for weeks. I've been racking my brain deciding what to do. Is it confidence? Is it technique? I don't know."
The Longhorns had their chances Saturday. Willy Salamanca chased down a through-ball in the first half and stuck his foot out hoping for a deflection; instead, the ball glanced off the side of his cleat and bounced over the goal.
In the second half, Salamanca slid through the middle once more, stuck his foot out and drilled the ball off the post. The scene was reminiscent of Friday's opener against No. 25 Pagosa Springs, when two Basalt scoring opportunities bounded off posts.
"We had a few pretty good looks, but they were tough balls over the top that were coming in pretty hot," Hayes said.
Basalt scored just three goals in its five losses.
After his team's latest defeat, Hayes was left lamenting the committee's curious seeding decision that left his Longhorns playing on the road. Basalt was ranked as high as sixth by MaxPreps in the days leading up to the release of the bracket. Faith Christian, meanwhile, was 10th.
"This game could've been played on our grass field. Granted, their height would not go away, but they would've had to travel and sleep in a hotel overnight on Friday," Hayes said. "It's the same thing year after year - getting down there, playing a private school on turf. We've proved over the last few years that we're the second-strongest league in the state, yet we move from sixth to ninth. It sounds like sour grapes, but I'm pretty sick of it.
"At the very least, I want to talk to (the Colorado High School Activities Association) and say, 'The way things are going, let's just go back to the old format so my boys get a home game (in the first round).' I'm more upset than I am angry, but I think that we got jobbed."
Just one of three 3A Region 3 teams reached the quarterfinals. Third-seeded Coal Ridge accomplished that feat with a 2-1 victory over No. 14 Telluride on Saturday.
No. 17 Roaring Fork was overmatched in its game against top-seeded The Classical Academy, falling 5-1.
"I wish Coal Ridge the best of luck, and I hope they continue to represent," Hayes said. "We deserved to be here, and my boys deserved better than this."