The pandemic set the stage for a night that would go down in Los Angeles lore. Photos and text by Alborz Kamalizad/LAist

By Alborz Kamalizad/LAist

Originally published Nov 1, 2021

Friday’s East L.A. Classic football game between Boyle Heights’ Roosevelt High School and East L.A.’s Garfield High School contained all the emotions of a city reeling from 19 months of a pandemic: grief over lost loved ones, relief at connecting with classmates and neighbors again, and jubilance at returning to an in-person event. On the field and off, it was a comeback story inside a comeback story embedded in yet another comeback story.

Garfield High School’s Bulldogs rallied late, but just missed pushing the team over the top. Photo by Alborz Kamalizad/LAist

Comeback #1: After the Roosevelt Rough Riders jumped out to a big early lead (it was 22-0 at halftime), the Garfield Bulldogs rallied in the second half. Garfield blanked Roosevelt in the second half and got within 22-19, only to fall short when the Bulldogs’ last-second field goal attempt missed wide left.

Head Coach Aldo Parral celebrates an emotional win with his team after having lost Assistant Coach Richard “Dickie” Guillen to COVID-19 earlier in the year. Photo by Alborz Kamalizad/LAist

Comeback #2: The Rough Riders won the Classic for the first time in 10 years. The win was bittersweet, as the school lost beloved former assistant coach Richard “Dickie” Guillen to COVID-19 earlier this year.

The Roosevelt players have a favorite phrase of Guillen’s emblazoned on their helmets: “All work, no glory.”

Teammates celebrate and Coach Parral raises the Classic trophy for the crowd. Security could not keep jubilant fans off the field. Photo by Alborz Kamalizad/LAist

Comeback #3: The Classic has been played since 1925. Think about how much the city has changed since then — and think of the remarkable consistency of this one high school football matchup.

Because of the pandemic, the game was cancelled last year for the first time since World War II. The coronavirus devastated both working-class communities of East L.A. and Boyle Heights. Yet there they were on Friday, more than a year-and-a-half into a pandemic, the East Los Angeles College stadium filled with vaccinated or COVID-negative tested fans, cheering, dancing, and on the edge of their seats. When delirious Roosevelt fans poured onto the field after the final whistle, it felt like Los Angeles was back.

Below are a few more snapshots from another classic game in this storied rivalry.

With Roosevelt leading the entire game, fans roar in the stands and Coach Parral speaks into quarterback James Cortez’s ear before sending him onto the field. Photo by Alborz Kamalizad/LAist

Garfield games out plays on a whiteboard and with video playback. Photo by Alborz Kamalizad/LAist
Tight End Ben Salinas looks on between plays (left) and Roosevelt’s defense just manages to keep Garfield at bay in the fourth quarter (right). Photo by Alborz Kamalizad/LAist
With the game over, both teams had plenty to be proud of. Garfield fans reach out to celebrate their players as they leave the field and Coach Parral exits with the Classic trophy in hand. Photo by Alborz Kamalizad/LAist

This report is reprinted with permission from Southern California Public Radio. © 2021 Southern California Public Radio. All rights reserved.

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