Basalt coach Carl Frerichs preached all season the importance of winning the turnover battle — especially during playoff football.

Saturday, a turnover proved to be the spark the No. 9 Longhorns needed for the eventual game-winning touchdown in a 13-7 win over No. 8 TCA to punch their ticket to the second round of the 2A playoffs.

Basalt will face No. 1 Rifle in the quarterfinals next week. The Longhorns faced Rifle just two weeks ago in a 21-9 2A Western Slope loss.

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Host TCA forced Basalt to punt early in the second quarter, but on the next play Titan quarterback Sam Guilez fumbled on the handoff, recovered by the Longhorns on the Titan 23. Basalt moved the chains once before junior quarterback Matty Gillis sent a touchdown pass to senior Jackson Rappaport.

Aided by two TCA 15-yard penalties, Gillis led the Longhorns’ first charge down the field ending with a 10-yard pass to Rappaport.

The Titans responded with a first-drive touchdown of their own thanks to a 2-yard rush by sophomore Cade Palmer. But it proved to be the last time TCA would find the end zone the rest of the way.

“Even from the first quarter they had us on our heels and their offense was working really well. But my kids buckled down and stayed on their feet, and once we settled in our kids were flying around and playing like we are used to,” Frerichs said.

TCA "tightened their chinstraps" during the break and emerged from the locker room ready to move the ball, but unfortunately for the Titans, they could not move the ball into the end zone.

TCA did, however, stop Rappaport’s production, which frustrated the 6-foot-3 receiver.

“They were triple covering me in the second half and they did a great job covering me, I don’t think I got the ball at all in the second half,” Rappaport said.

But without another score in the second half, Rappaport’s damage was already done.

“I was a little bit late on the defensive plan to take care of (Rappaport) to wait until the second half, so that probably cost us the game,” said TCA coach Justin Rich.

TCA was stopped deep in Basalt’s zone twice in the second half, including a drive turned over on downs on the Longhorn 5-yard line.

Looking at fourth and less-than-one, TCA tried to replicate the play that had previously found success on Palmer’s short touchdown run, but the Longhorns were ready and closed the gap shy of the first down.

Penalties also hurt the Titans, especially in the second half as two 10-yard penalties halted momentum on an important drive with less than five minutes left to play.

Second-half momentum came thanks in part to the work of TCA freshman Ethan Aragundi who pounded his way through the line, playing much bigger than his 5-foot-5, 150-pound frame.

And while the Titans are stacked with young position players who made an impact throughout the season, Rich said the team’s senior class is the best he has ever coached, and is grateful for the lessons they taught the upcoming Titans.

“We are very happy right now that this senior class is the epitome of leadership,” Rich said. “They’re not big in stats but it's the best leaders that we have ever had. And now we’re blessed that we have some young classes who have some talent who have watched these guys lead and love and if they took those lessons I think we’ll be OK at TCA.”