At Stevens Steakhouse in Commerce, two Eastside schools meet for what they refer to as their annual “Beef Bowl”. With forks clacking and steaks sizzling in the background, the room is a bit tense as local high-school football opponents are forced to interact with each other.
Sunday’s annual dinner could only signify the beginning of one thing: Classic Week.
This year marks the 85th annual East L.A. Classic between long-time rivals Theodore Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights and James A. Garfield High School in East Los Angeles. However, Friday’s homecoming game for both schools is more than a battle to see who runs LA, it carries strong league and playoff implications as well.
Both the Roosevelt Riders and the Garfield Bulldogs are coming into the game at 7-2, each riding winning streaks (Garfield six games, Roosevelt five). They are also both undefeated in league games at 5-0, beating their usual opponents South Gate, Bell, Legacy, South East, and Hungtington Park.
“This is the way it should be every year… there is no reason why both Roosevelt and Garfield should not be playing for a league title every year.”Aldo Parral
Led by second-year coach Aldo Parral, the Riders will look to end their nine-year losing drought. As an alumni himself, Coach Parral said it feels like an “eternity” since Roosevelt last won the Classic. The Bulldogs, led on the other hand by Lorenzo Hernández, will look to keep their rivalry streak going, and cap off their season with another league championship.
“For the fans it’s bragging rights and water cooler talk, but for Lorenzo and us, we have a league title on the line,” said the Rider’s Parral at a Wednesday press conference at ELAC’s Weingart Stadium, where the Classic is to be played.
“This is the way it should be every year, and there is no reason why both Roosevelt and Garfield should not be playing for a league title every year,” he added.
Winning Friday‘s game will not only give Garfield its 10th league championship in a row, it would also guarantee a spot in the Open Division playoffs. For the Riders, winning the game would put them in contention for a high-ranked seed in the Division 1 playoffs, and allow them to claim the throne to the league for the first time in 10 years.
Underscoring the game’s importance, this year’s East L.A. Classic has received much more hype and support than in previous years. Students, like always, have been in the middle of the hype. From hall decorating to pep rallies and senior events, both schools have been driven to demonstrate their school pride.
The Los Angeles Rams and Nike have provided additional promotion and support. For the second straight year, the two organizations have partnered to donate jerseys, shoes, gloves and other football gear to both schools Nike has also held several events for the schools this month at the local Nike East Los store, including private training session and a meet up between the two teams on Monday. There, both teams were able to enjoy mini competitions and challenges before having to hit the field on Friday night.
Nike has even gone a step further in support of the Classic by providing gear to the cheer and drill teams of both schools, something that has not been seen in the history of this rivalry. Roosevelt senior and varsity captain Nicole Orozco said that she is “thankful for what Nike has done,” and that she feels that the hard work and dedication of her cheer team is finally being acknowledged.
Additionally, for the first time in five years the Roosevelt Rough Riders will feature the last names of their players on their jersey. This has not only made this year’s Classic more intimate and special for the players, it has added more flare to what is already expected to be a good match-up.
“I feel like I’m not only playing for my school, I am also representing my family name,” said Mark Carillo, a senior and three-year varsity player for the Riders, about having his last name on the jersey. Carrillo said he will try to help his team do something his father did back in the 1985 season: beat the Bulldogs and win the league championship.
This year’s Classic also coincides with the theatrical release of a 2014 documentary depicting the hardships of being a student-athlete in the Boyle Heights/East LA area. “The All-Americans,” which opens in area theaters next month (including the Regency Commerce, on Nov. 8), is expected to provide more excitement to this long-standing rivalry.
Photo above from @rooseveltstudentstore Instagram page.