WALNUT CREEK -- The third time was a charm -- repeatedly -- for quarterback Joe Pelletier and the Northgate High football team Saturday night.
The Broncos converted seven out of 10 third-down conversions in the first half, including two key conversions on a 90-yard scoring drive, en route to a 30-6 victory over Newark Memorial and a trip to the North Coast Section Division II semifinal round against Rancho Cotate-Rohnert Park next Saturday.
The Broncos (9-2) led 10-0 with 9:49 left in the second quarter after a Cougar punt pinned them at their own 10-yard line.
After five straight runs, on third-and-1 Pelletier flipped a short pass in the right flat to Jake Smith, who went 24 yards to the Newark 44, Pelletier found Eric Haynes for 32 yards to the Cougars' 24.
Seven plays later -- including a 9-yard run by Haynes on fourth-and-1 -- Pelletier finished the 14-play drive with a 1-yard plunge.
"We work a lot of third-and-long a lot in practice and it prepares us for the games," Pelletier said.
He accounted for two more touchdowns in the last two minutes of the half. Marty Leggett of the Cougars returned an interception 60 yards for a touchdown with 1:17 left to play, then Pelletier led a quick 66-play scoring drive, ending with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Nick Mastrelli with 15 seconds left.
Much of the drive came on one play, a 49-yard pass to Brandon Lee.
Pelletier completed 11 of 18 passes for 176 yards, but
"I was surprised when their safeties come up, because I knew I could throw any pass and it would be open down the middle of the field," Pelletier said.
Smith caught five passes for 85 yards, and Lee had four catches for 58 yards. Jimmy Sharpe led the Broncos on the ground with 89 yards on 14 carries, and Fisi Tavake had 84 yards.
Pelletier said the wet ball affected his throws a few times, and that it was his first rainy game since the Broncos played Casa Grande two years ago.
Northgate 30, Newark Memorial 6
NM 0 6 0 0-- 6
Northgate 7 17 0 6-- 30
N -- Tavake 32 run (Mitchell kick)
N -- Mitchell 26 FG
N -- Pelletier1 run (Mitchell kick)
NM -- Leggett 60 interception return (kick failed)
N -- Mastrelli 3 pass from Pelletier (Mitchell kick)
N -- Sharpe 1run (kick blocked)
Rushing: NM -- Leggett 9-74, Morton 8-18, Tivin 5-13, Ramirez 4-4. Totals 23-109. N -- Sharpe 14-89, Tavake 14-82, Haynes 11-26, Pelletier 13-26, Voorhees 1-6, Lee 1-5. Totals 54-234. Passing: NM -- Tavin 2-6-2-22. N -- Pelletier 11-18-1-176. Receiving: NM -- Ramirez 1-16, Morton 1-6. N -- Smith 5-85, Lee 4-58, Haynes 1-22, Mastrelli 1-3. Fumbles/lost: Northgate 3/3, Newark Memorial 2/0. Records: Northgate 9-2, Newark Memorial 9-3.