Yusbani Duarte and Foster Hayes work their way past the Basalt midfield. Photo by Sue Rollyson

In the opening 10 seconds of Roaring Fork’s Friday night Homecoming clash with the Basalt Longhorns, the Rams intercepted a pass and Jake Barlow stung the palms of Longhorn’s goalkeeper Eric Palomares. Although he didn’t open the scoring, Barlow’s attempt set the tone for the evening: offensive tenacity from the Rams and defensive panic from the Longhorns.

The game was Basalt’s third in the span of four days. A promising 2-2 draw against the Titans of Coal Ridge on Tuesday and a 5-0 thrashing of Moffat County on Thursday gave the Longhorns the momentum they needed to believe they could defeat the Rams for the first time since 2019.

By contrast, Roaring Fork had more than a week to process their 1-0 defeat to Vail Mountain School on Sept. 21. Despite controlling possession and creating numerous chances in Vail, the Rams were unable to recover after falling behind in the opening minutes. The defeat halted an impressive unbeaten streak, and Coach Nick Forbes responded to it by giving his team the brutal honesty they needed to hear. “This is a talented team,” he admitted, “but I said, ‘If you’re not going to work, if you’re not going to put in the commitment, if you’re not going to have that desire, all the talent in the world is just going to go to waste.’”

In front of hundreds of fans and under the Friday night lights, Forbes’ words clearly had an impact. His players found the will to work hard in the opening minutes of the game, during which the ball rarely left their attacking half. The Rams pressed early and often, forcing a string of misplaced Longhorn passes. Good chances fell to Roaring Fork’s Jeffrey Candela and Foster Hays, but neither could find the target.

Twenty minutes into the game, Roaring Fork had the lion’s share of the possession and plenty of shots on and off target, but Palomares in Basalt’s goal had done enough to keep the Rams off the scoreboard.

Relief for the Rams came in the 25th minute, as a Yusbani Duarte pass found Fernando Rodrigues on the left side of the box. Rodrigues curled a shot past the diving Palomares into the far side netting, sending the Roaring Fork bench and student section into rapture. Minutes later, Roaring Fork’s Barlow clipped a cross into the box, where Foster Hayes cleverly settled the ball in traffic and rifled it into the goal to double the lead.

In the 31st minute, Roaring Fork defender Sam Brennan’s headed effort looked goalbound, and surely would have put the game out of reach, but the ball bounced off the post and the Longhorns eventually cleared it away. Down the other end, Basalt’s Jeffery Ramos managed to skip through the Roaring Fork back line, but in the end his angled shot made for an easy save from Roaring Fork goalkeeper Keven Cisneros.

In the second half, the Rams avoided complacency and maintained the pressure that was present throughout the first. In the 50th minute, Barlow received the ball on the left side of the box with several Basalt defenders in front of him. Moments earlier, Barlow had shanked a first-time, left-footed effort high and wide. This time he took a touch, assessed his options and made his defenders step to him.

Slaloming past one, two, then three Longhorns, Barlow arrowed a low shot with his right foot into the far corner, making amends for his miss and taking the score to 3-0. Ten minutes later, Roaring Fork’s Rodrigues, who had opened the scoring, sent in a delightful cross from the left side at the perfect height for teammate Duarte to direct a firm header into the corner.

At 4-0, the student section made their wishes known to Coach Forbes with chants of: “We want Cooper,” and he responded by giving senior Cooper Chacos 10 minutes to lead the line. By this point, the game had lost its sharpness, but the Rams did enough to maintain their shutout.

After the game, Coach Forbes was not thrilled to talk about the Vail Mountain School defeat, but he was pleased with his team’s response. “My message all week was, ‘What can we learn from this? What are we missing?’ Tonight they showed commitment and effort and everything else just fell into place.”

Up next, Basalt will have a chance to regain their momentum as they host Rifle on Oct. 5 at 4pm. Meanwhile, Roaring Fork traveled to Delta and beat the Panthers 5-0 on Oct. 3 and will face Glenwood Springs at home on Oct. 6 at 6pm.