WaveNewspapers.com: East L.A. Classic: Community pride, playoffs at stake
Roosevelt High School quarterback Andony Flores speaks during the media conference for Friday's East L.A. Classic football game. (Photo by Ron Guild)
By RON GUILD, Sports Editor
Story Created: Nov 2, 2011 at 5:33 PM PST
Billed as the biggest high school football rivalry west of the Mississippi River, it would seem bragging rights in the community would be enough for winners of the East L.A. Classic.
But more than that will be at stake when 20,000-plus fans jam East L.A. College’s Weingart Stadium Friday for the 77th Roosevelt-Garfield showdown.
Postseason futures will also be on the line when the two kick off at 7:30 p.m.
“This isn’t just for bragging rights, it’s for a playoff spot,” Roosevelt coach Javier Cid said.
Roosevelt, which had its bye last week, is 5-3 overall, 3-1 in the Eastern League. This is the regular-season finale for Garfield, which is 4-5 overall, 4-1 in league.
Because both teams are in Division I in the City Section, they are essentially fighting for the league’s one guaranteed berth in the upper-division playoffs.
First-place South East, which is expected to win out the next two weeks, is in Division II.
As Garfield defensive lineman Martin Soto said, “This means a lot to us and to the community, but it’s also for the playoffs.”
On the surface, little separates the teams.
Each lost to South East and beat almost everybody else in league (Roosevelt still has Bell on its schedule).
“We’re so equal,” Garfield coach Lorenzo Hernandez said. “They’ve played an overtime game, we’ve played an overtime game. We’ve both lost to South East.”
Both coaches are expecting a run-oriented game.
Garfield has a talented junior tailback in Lance Fernandez, who has 135 carries for 882 yards and 12 TDs and another couple of TDs on receptions, and a fullback in Larry Ravelo, who has 383 yards and two TDs on 67 carries.
Sophomore quarterback Nicky Peralta is 74 of 137 for 1,003 yards and 10 TDs with three interceptions.
Steven De La Torre, who has 15 catches for 294 yards and two TDs, is dangerous as a deep threat and returner.
Linebacker Jonathan Valles, who has 69 tackles, leads the defense.
Roosevelt’s primary weapons are senior quarterback Andony Flores and running backs Gilbert Herrera and Michael Galindo.
Flores has completed 52 of 95 passes for 523 yards and two TDs and is also the leading rusher with 789 yards and five scores on 100 carries.
Herrera has 780 yards and eight TDs on 77 carries and Galindo 422 yards and four scores on 61 attempts.
“Everybody thinks we have the upper hand, but I don’t necessarily believe it,” Garfield’s Hernandez said. “You can have the best team and things still go wrong like bad snaps, fumbles. I see this as a very competitive game.”
“For us to beat them, we’re going to have to throw a little,” Roosevelt’s Cid said. “We’ll still have to run, but Garfield is very solid against the run. Our defense is going to have to stop Lance Fernandez. He’s an outstanding runner and their offensive line blocks so well for him.
“You can’t discount their quarterback (Peralta) either. He’s a veteran even though he’s only a sophomore. We have to worry about Steven De La Torre. He beat us with a touchdown last year.”
Being part of a rivalry that began in 1925 and Roosevelt leads 39-31-6 is not lost on Cid, himself a Roosevelt graduate and past participant as a player in the Classic.
“Although it doesn’t show looking at us coaches, it is exciting,” the Rough Rider coach said. “To have the opportunity to be a part of a game like this is truly an honor.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun and the rewards that come with this game are huge.”
“The East L.A. Classic is very important for the kids,” Hernandez said. “When you have 20,000 people screaming at them and that feeling that goes through their bodies is indescribable, so to be here on Friday night speaks volumes about what goes on here year in and year out. East L.A. Classic is special.”