May 27, 2024

One of the oldest rivalries in the City of Angels was renewed Friday night when Roosevelt and Garfield met in the 88th edition of the East L.A. Classic, and by the end of the game the estimated 18,000 fans packed inside Weingart Stadium at East L.A. College in Monterey Park had the song “Who Let the Dogs Out” ringing in their ears.

The Grammy Award-winning hit by Baha Men boomed over the sound system after every Garfield touchdown, and there were seven of those in the Bulldogs’ 49-16 blowout that kept them perfect in the Eastern League and likely secured a top three seeding and a home game to begin the City Section Open Division playoffs in two weeks. Brackets will be released Saturday night.

Garfield had the ball inside the Roosevelt 10 in the final minute, but rather than try to score again, Lorenzo Hernandez, in his 23rd season as Bulldogs coach, told his players to take a knee. The computer gave Garfield a 99% chance of winning and had predicted a final score of 56-12.

“You want to win by enough points to impress and hold your ranking, but at the end of the day it’s about sportsmanship,” Hernandez said. “Our top running back [Damian Cornejo] didn’t play tonight because we want him as healthy as can be for the playoffs, but the other kids stepped up. We’ve won nine in a row and I think we’re showing good balance.”

As is the tradition, the marching bands for both schools played the national anthem together and fans on both sides waved colorful signs with messages like “Dawg Pound” and “Rider Pride.”

“No matter the teams’ records or the circumstances, this is a special event,” said Hernandez, whose wife, Martha, and daughter Ana are Garfield alums and whose son Noah is the starting right offensive guard. “The pageantry of it, the student body decorating the hallways and having pep rallies … it’s what high school football is all about.”

Garfield defensive back Jayden Garcia, right, knocks the ball away from Roosevelt's Esaul Contreras in the first half.

Garfield defensive back Jayden Garcia, right, knocks the ball away from Roosevelt’s Esaul Contreras in the first half.

(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

Robert Sanchez rushed for 112 yards and three touchdowns in 10 carries and Damian Cabrera threw three touchdown passes — two to Jayden Barnes — as the Bulldogs not only earned neighborhood bragging rights for the 12th time in the last 13 meetings, but also pulled even at 41-41-6 in a rivalry that began the year Garfield opened in 1925. Since then the only years the game was not played were from 1939 to 1948 because of the Great Depression and World War II and in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Paul Ramos returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown to put the Bulldogs (9-1 overall, 6-0 league) ahead 42-0 late in the third quarter. The Rough Riders (4-6, 3-3) were forced to punt on five of their six drives in the first half and were held to 50 yards over the first two quarters.

Alan Ortiz spoiled the shutout with a 29-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter and added a five-yard scoring run with 7:47 remaining. Sebastian Clark ran for both two-point conversions.

“Last year at the Coliseum it was a whole different environment and there were like 40,000 people, but this was more traditional since it’s where we usually have this game,” said Cabrera, who took turns hoisting the winner’s trophy in front of the home crowd, which chanted “East L.A.!”

“In the locker room I got all my guys together and made sure there wasn’t going to be any letdown. This is just a stepping stone for us on the way to something even bigger and better.”

For the first time in the long history of the rivalry, the Classic also featured girls’ flag football. The first game of the day proved to be the most thrilling as Roosevelt prevailed 12-6 in overtime thanks to a 10-yard pass from Brandy Escobar to Ariana Flores.

“I’ve always wanted to play football and this is my senior year, so I’m glad I have the chance,” Flores said after joining her teammates in dousing coach Juan Pimentel with water. “We came here thinking we’re not leaving without a trophy and if the boys can’t do it, we will.”

Garfield receiver Jayden Barnes leaps in the air holding the football to celebrate a touchdown catch with teammates.

Garfield receiver Jayden Barnes (left) celebrates a touchdown catch in the second quarter of the East L.A. Classic against Roosevelt.

(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

Roosevelt took a 6-0 lead on a pass from Escobar to Allyn Vargas late in the first half, but Garfield tied the score on a 15-yard strike from Gisselle Galicia to Evanie Macias with 4:22 left in regulation.

Pimentel and Garfield coach Oscar Tavera graduated from Roosevelt four years apart (Tavera in 1989, Pimtentel in 1993) and served as assistants together for 10 years on Javier Cid’s staff at their alma mater.

“Oscar is one of my mentors and it’s sad that one of us has to lose but this is rewarding for the girls,” Pimentel said. “I have family and childhood friends who went to Garfield so we know what this rivalry means to the community. Hopefully this win rubs off a bit to the the JV and then to varsity.”

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