Fernandez Leads Garfield Past Roosevelt in East L.A. Classic

By Mario Villegas, Exclusive to EGP

Garfield High School’s offense has been mostly unproductive, but the Bulldogs received a big boost from Lance Fernandez against its archrival Roosevelt in the East Los Angeles Classic.

Playing on the biggest stage of his young high school career, Fernandez appears to be an emerging standout as the sophomore rushed for a season-high 173 yards on 22 carries to lead the Bulldogs to a 13-3 victory over the Rough Riders before an estimated 20,000 last Friday at East L.A. College.

Garfield High School running back Lance Fernandez runs through the Roosevelt defense in last Friday’s East Los Angeles Classic. Fernandez rushed for 173 yards to lea the Bulldogs to a 13-3 win against their arch-rival before 20,000 at East L.A. College. (EGP Photo by Mario Villegas)

Fernandez had rushed for a modest 434 yards in eight games for a Garfield offense that scored only 138 points and was held to only a field goal in a victory against Huntington Park one game earlier.

Garfield Coach Lorenzo Hernandez said he didn’t see it coming.

“This was his coming out party,” he said. “He came out of nowhere and gave us the best performance he could possibly give us.”

Fernandez and the rest of the players on offense had grown accustomed to giving all the credit to Garfield’s defense, so it should have come as no surprise that Fernandez tried to downplay his performance after the game.

“You have to give it to the defense,” he said. “They were perfect tonight and saved the offense after we made those mistakes that we did.”

While Garfield’s offense has struggled all season, the Bulldogs’ defense has been dominant. But Garfield came up with the right combination on this night.

Led by Fernandez, Garfield’s offense out gained Roosevelt 321-137 in total yards and had 15 first downs to Roosevelt’s six.

The Bulldogs racked up 225 yards on the ground and limited the Rough Riders to just 74.

The collective effort led to Garfield clinching a tie for the Eastern League championship. The Bulldogs, who went over the .500 mark for the first time, are 5-4 overall and 5-0 in league. They need a victory against second-place South East (7-2, 4-1) Friday night at Garfield to win the title outright. Kickoff is at 7.

Roosevelt (5-4, 2-3) dropped to fourth place in the standings and saw its bid for a third consecutive league title come to an end.

Garfield drove 50 yards in seven plays against Roosevelt with quarterback Nicky Peralta throwing a four-yard shovel pass to Moses Saucedo as the Bulldogs took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

The first of the mistakes (two interceptions and a fumble) committed by Garfield’s offense ended its next series. Quarterback Leonardo Vaal had a pass intercepted by Roosevelt’s Jonathan Mariscal, who returned it to the Garfield 26 yard line. But Roosevelt coughed up a fumble as the Rough Riders failed to cash in on the turnover.

Fernandez then went to work and rushed for 45 yards on six attempts to set up Garfield at the Roosevelt 13.

The Bulldogs put the ball in the air and it cost them another drive as Peralta’s pass was intercepted by Kevin Rios.

The turnover gave Roosevelt an emotional lift as quarterback Andony Flores led his team on a drive. He started it by throwing a 39-yard pass to Mariscal, and ended with a 23-yard field goal by Rafael Gomez as time expired in the first half. The Rough Riders trailed 7-3 at halftime.

Garfield went on an impressive drive to start the second half, but it ended with a lost fumble at the Roosevelt 45.

But the Rough Riders couldn’t cash in as they missed a 38-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.

“They dominated us on the offensive and defensive lines, but hey, it’s 7-3 in the fourth quarter and still a ballgame,” Roosevelt Coach Javier Cid said. “It’s like we just kept trading mistakes.”

There were no mistakes by Garfield after the missed field goal attempt and the Bulldogs went on their most impressive drive, going 80 yards in seven plays, the last one resulting in Vaal throwing a 37-yard touchdown pass to Steven De la Torre with 6:52 remaining in the game.

Garfield was stopped short on a two-point conversion attempt, but its lead was stretched to 13-3.
Vaal and De la Torre were credited with the touchdown, but it was the hard running of Fernandez that set it up. With tackles Edgar Gonzalez and Jason Morales, guards Hasiel Santoyo and Christian Ortega, center Richard Torres and tight end Jaime Leija leading the way, Fernandez rushed for 43 yards.

“Our offensive line played a perfect game,” Fernandez said. “They scored 100 percent.”

Defensively, Garfield was led by linebacker Hector Cazales and defensive end Moses Saucedo.

“Roosevelt has a good offense and you can’t afford to let them break a play because they’ll beat you,” Cazales said. “It took a team effort and we played great as team. We strive to be the No. 1 defense in the City, and I’m proud to be part of it.”

The meeting between the schools was the 76th, and Roosevelt still leads the overall series, 40-30-6.

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November 11, 2010  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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