Northgate Football Picked Up Its First Diablo Athletic League Championship In Five Years Behind Efforts From Throughout Its Well-Balanced Roster •
When confronted with the most consequential moments of a season, some teams rely on the experience of a big senior class while others turn to youth and talent.
The formula for success at Northgate-Walnut Creek can best be described as all of the above.
A 48-21 victory over College Park-Pleasant Hill wrapped up a Diablo Athletic League-Valley Division title for the Broncos on Nov. 5, and put an exclamation point on an 8-2 regular season in which Northgate went a perfect 5-0 in league play. The win also guaranteed there will be more football for head coach Ben Ballard’s crew, which now turns its attention to a North Coast Section Division III playoff game against No. 1 seed Windsor on Friday night in Walnut Creek.
Winning a league title — their first since sharing a co-title with Berean Christian in 2016 — was always a goal, but getting to that point required growth.
Though Northgate has relied on an 11-man senior class to set the tone, the Broncos have also needed contributions from their other classes. In fact, the roster shows more juniors, 14, than seniors while eight sophomores have also contributed to the team’s success.
“After the whole year of COVID, everything’s kind of changed a little bit. The seniors have stuck it out the whole time, our junior class stepped up and we have quite a few sophomores,” Ballard said. “It’s really a program win. All these guys stepping up and doing those things that you ask week in and week out. It’s a long, long grind to get to this point but they did what we asked. It’s a proud moment as a coach.”
The reliance on a full team rather than just one part of it was on full display against College Park. Quarterback John Pelletier turned the most important game of his junior season into what both he and Ballard called his best performance, completing 18 of 24 passes for 351 yards and three touchdowns. He also added two touchdowns on the ground.
“I’ve always known he had the potential,” said senior receiver Brandon MacCarter, who caught seven passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns. “We’ve been working all summer, every day. It’s good to see him finally shine. He got his moment in the league championship and he took advantage of it.”
Pelletier wasn’t the only junior to step up in the season’s biggest moment. Tight end Emilio Pucci hauled in five passes for 157 yards and a touchdown and also intercepted a pass on defense. Running back Chris Contreras chipped in with a pair of rushing touchdowns. And, Ballard pointed to the effort of his line, which also features a mixture of all three classes, as “the difference at the end.”
“We’ve come a long way,” Pelletier said. “We had our first two losses early in the season against Las Lomas and Rodriguez and we’ve just been working every week on the grind and to get better every day and every practice.
We came together and now we’re league champions.”