WALNUT CREEK -- Once the Northgate High football team's defense finally produced a stop against College Park, Friday's North Coast Section Division II playoff opener turned in the Broncos' favor.
Down by nine points in the second half, Northgate needed a fourth quarter comeback to beat College Park 41-29 and earn a quarterfinal date with the winner of Saturday's game between Miramonte and Tennyson.
The No. 6 seeded Broncos trailed at halftime and after three quarters, but scored the final 21 points of the game when its defense finally started clicking.
Offensively, Northgate (9-2) relied on a heavy dose of Eric Haynes, who rushed for 263 yards and four touchdowns on 27 carries. His final score of the night, a 5-yard run in which he spun off defenders into the end zone, put the Broncos ahead for good with 9:31 left.
For three and a half quarters, Northgate's defense had no answers for No. 11 College Park, which led by as much as 29-20.
But when the Falcons (6-4-1) gambled on a fourth-and-one from their own 26 yard-line, the move backfired. Trevor Sprung was stuffed at the line of scrimmage, and the Broncos scored three plays later when Kyle Austin connected with Nick Mastrelli. The touchdown pulled the Broncos to within 29-27.
Northgate went on to score on their next two possessions to complete the comeback win.
Haynes scored Northgate first three touchdowns of the night, tallying 172 of his yards in the first half.
"Guys key on him and know he's going to run it," said Northgate coach Justin Lowell. "He's a physical guy and he's able to take that beating and keep going game in and game out. He did a great job tonight, especially when we kind of sputtered offensively, he was always able to get us a first down when we needed it."
Northgate had defeated College Park 49-14 in Diablo Valley Athletic League play less than a month earlier, but the rematch played out much differently.
"They were more prepared for us," Haynes said. "They knew what we like to do and came out with a game plan to stop us."
College Park headed into the locker room up 22-20 after a back and forth first half. Timmy Jackson threw a 43-yard touchdown to Michael Sabeti on a halfback option pass, and sophomore David Jones returned a kickoff 95 yards for a score in the wild opening half.
The Falcons' defense also produced goal-line stand, stopping Haynes half a yard away from the end zone just before the break.