With each shot, whether a little wide or a little high, Lambert's crowd's reactions continued to amplify—the sound of anxious fans evolved into faithful cheers as the game evolved.
Despite an energetic and dominating second half in terms of ball control and created chances, Lambert couldn't overcome a 1-0 deficit, falling by the same score Wednesday night in the opening round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs to Norcross.
It wasn't for a lack of effort. Lambert had 12 shots—eight in the second half—that were often great looks. Eoin Griffiths nearly curled in the equalizer with just under six minutes to play from around 20 yards; Mac Shirley, recently cleared from an injury, looped a similarly gorgeous shot that just missed from deep range.
Senior Jalen Williams' strong throw-in ability was showcased as the Longhorns (11-8) had six opportunities to create a short-range shot from one of Williams' hurls, but nothing came.
The Longhorns battled until the final whistle, but in the end had to stomach walking off their field knowing a little bit of luck could have given them multiple goals and a trip, with momentum, into the second round.
“We've kind of had an up and down season, but if we play like we did tonight we can play with anybody,” Lambert head coach Chris Wilson said. “I challenged them at halftime, and from there they played as well as they could have.”
Norcross (13-3-1) showcased the athleticism of its front line early on, putting pressure on the Longhorns out of the gate. Duvaughan Clarke scored the game's lone goal with 16 minutes to play in the first half, heading in off a corner.
The Blue Devils nearly put the game away with 20 minutes to go in the second half when another header opportunity flew just high. Lambert's best scoring opportunity came when Davis Eddleman had a one-on-one situation but couldn't control the ball before meeting a defender. Eddleman and Williams also had consecutive shots saved from close range in the second half.
Wilson said many of the shots in the second half were just bad luck, but also knew nerves could have been a factor.
“I think if it's any other day, or the second playoff game, those shots go in,” Wilson said. “There's some hesitation, and you just have to get it out of your system and we couldn't. But in the second half, Norcross really just dove all over the ball and made it difficult for us to finish.”
Norcross finished with just a 2-1 advantage on corners and was outshot, despite leading in shots for most of the first half.
Wilson didn't have negative feedback for his team after the heartbreaking loss.
“I couldn't have asked for more from our guys. They were tremendous tonight. Norcross is a very good team, they defended well, but I'm super proud of my guys. I thought we played as well tonight as we have all season, and that's what you ask from your team in the playoffs. Unfortunately we didn't get the result.”