Two of the Eastside’s most iconic schools—Roosevelt High School and Garfield High School— faced off Friday night in the 88th annual East LA Classic, perhaps the most watched high school homecoming football game in Los Angeles.
Last year’s Classic was a star-studded spectacle: The teams went head-to-head at the LA Coliseum. Roosevelt alum and hip-hop sensation Will.i.am. performed during the halftime show.
This time the Classic returned to East Los Angeles College where it’s been held in recent years. It’s a fitting arena for a game that has evolved from a mere sporting event to an important cultural experience for generations living on the Eastside.
Representing Boyle Heights was Roosevelt High School, which has educated families in the neighborhood since 1923. Players wore red and gold uniforms with the phrase “big stick” emblazoned on the front, a nod to the school’s namesake U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, and its mascot the Rough Riders.
Their opponents were the returning champions Garfield High School, an equally historic school in unincorporated East Los Angeles. The Bulldogs confidently strutted onto the field in their classic white, red, and blue uniforms.
Diehard Fans like alum Larry Ravelo, 28, were out to show their support for their Beloved team. Ravelo played as a fullback for the Garfield varsity team and won four back-to-back Classics. Standing on the sidelines with his family, this game was a full-circle moment.
“It’s great ‘cause some of these kids grew up watching me play. Number seven is my cousin Robert Sanchez and number 13 is Dominic Vasquez, another kid that grew up watching us,” Ravelo said. “We got a big family, seven brothers and sisters and they all played here; the bloodline runs deep here.”
With a season record of eight wins and one loss compared to Roosevelt’s four wins and five losses, all bets were on Garfield to secure another victory.
It wasn’t looking great for Roosevelt as Garfield maintained a sizeable lead throughout the night. “Two years ago we won and I was hoping we could win again,” said Roosevelt High junior Robert Velasco, “but we got next year for sure.”
The Bulldogs ended up the top dog in the fight, beating the Rough Riders 49 to 16. Two of the water girls for the Garfield High football team, senior Isabella Marquez and freshman Dijanai Vasquez, were overjoyed with the outcome. “I feel happy because I feel like these guys really worked hard this year and they showed that [on the field],” Marquez said.
Marquez and Vasquez were essential in making sure the players stayed hydrated. While this was Marquez’s last year, Vasquez hoped to continue supporting Garfield in future East LA Classics. “I’ll be on my own but I’m going to do it.”
Not everyone was celebrating. Roger Ortiz and Ken Molina, two friends who attend Roosevelt High School, were having a hard time listening to Garfield fans cheer throughout the game. “I’m mad,” Molina said. Still, the night wasn’t a complete waste as they enjoyed a Friday night spent watching football with friends.
“The best part is to join up with the people that you know,” said Ortiz. Molina commented on what this night means for the Eastside. “It’s important because it just brings the community together more.”