Garfield and Roosevelt high schools square off Friday in the 78th East Los Angeles Classic in what could be a classic.
Roosevelt will win the Eastern League title with a victory and take a week off before entering the City Section Division I football playoffs Nov. 9.
A win by Garfield, however, and the Bulldogs move into a first place tie, with one game left on their schedule.
“I think this is going to be one of the more exciting games we’ve played in this series,” Garfield Coach Lorenzo Hernandez said. “It’s going to determine the league outcome and playoff berths. It’s going to be a great environment to play a game.”
As part of spirit week leading into the game at each school, the teams attended a news conference Wednesday to promote the game that annually draws a capacity crowd of 20,000 to East Los Angeles College Stadium.
Roosevelt has won eight straight since losing its season opener to Montebello in August and is 5-0 in the Eastern League. Garfield is 3-5 overall and 3-1 in league.
The Rough Riders on paper look like the favorites this year, but are they?
“For the last six years we’ve been the underdog – and I’m not sure who determines that – but nothing has changed,” said Javier Cid, who’s now in his seventh year as head coach at Roosevelt. “Garfield is a very good team and they have more size and a little more speed than we do. We will have to beat them with a little more heart, and we will have to win the mental game by making less mistakes than they do.”
Roosevelt is led by running back Gilbert Herrera, quarterback David Arriaga, slot back Daniel Arriaga and wide receivers Kenny Orellana and Jose Mariscal. Defensively, the Rough Riders are led by linebackers Chris Campos, Juan Garcia and Jonathan Godoy and tackle Miles Tabarez.
“Roosevelt’s offense is putting up points, and their defense plays fast, aggressive and relentless,” Hernandez said. Garfield running back Lance Fernandez rushed for 152 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Bulldogs to a 29-15 win in last year’s meeting. He had 173 yards in Garfield’s 13-3 win in 2010.
The senior is regaining his form after having missed the season’s first five games with a knee injury.
“I’m really impressed with Fernandez and (fullback Larry) Ravelo in the way they work together and block for each other,” Cid said. “Garfield is going to be tough to stop.”
Garfield will most likely need another big night from Fernandez and Ravelo, who rushed for 95 yards in last year’s meeting.
“Our offense is going to have to help our defense by sustaining long drives to keep Roosevelt’s offense off the field,” Hernandez said.
Garfield’s offense is also led by quarterback Joshua Mendoza and wide receiver Juan Munoz. Ends Ramon Sierra and Emiliano Aguilar lead the defense, along with linebackers Antonio Huezo, Frankie Saucedo and Alejandro Lupercio.
Roosevelt leads the all-time series, 39-32-6, but Garfield has won six of the last eight meetings, including a City Section playoff game between the schools in 2007.
The varsity game is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.