Garfield-Roosevelt has implications

Roosevelt and Garfield players stand together in promotion of this year's East L.A. Classic. Mario Villegas for ESPNLosAngeles.com

There’ll be more than just bragging rights on the east side of L.A. Friday night, when Garfield and Roosevelt meet in the East Los Angeles Classic.

The winner gets a City Section Division I playoff berth.

“It’s truly an honor to be part of this game every year, but this is for the playoffs, and not just bragging rights,” said Roosevelt coach Javier Cid, who played in the game as a Rough Rider and is a former Garfield assistant coach.

An estimated capacity crowd of 20,000 will pack the stadium at East Los Angeles College for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff for the 77th meeting between the Bulldogs and the Rough Riders. Both teams lost to unbeaten South East and the winner likely will finish second in the Eastern League.

“Unfortunately, we both lost to South East, and the only opponent that we’ve played that they haven’t played is Bell, and they should beat Bell, so this is the right way to determine second place,” Garfield coach Lorenzo Hernandez said.

Both Garfield and Roosevelt are Division I teams, but the Eastern League is guaranteed only one berth in the City’s upper-division brackets.

“This game not only means a lot to us and the East L.A. community, but it’s also for the playoffs,” Garfield defensive lineman Martin Soto said.

South East, which is expected to win the league outright, is Division II.

Garfield (4-5, 4-1) played a rugged nonleague schedule, losing to Bishop Amat, Edison, Dorsey and St. Paul and opened league against South East. The Bulldogs have rolled off four straight wins since and end the regular season against Roosevelt.

Roosevelt (5-3, 3-1), which plays Bell (2-6) next week, bounced from the loss to South East to defeat Huntington Park and Jordan.

With both teams apparently hitting their strides, the game could be very entertaining.

“We’re pretty even,” Hernandez said. “Both teams are now running the ball well and playing good football, so it should be a good game.”

Both teams want to establish their running game.

“Garfield is good at running the ball and now they’re starting to pass better, so we’re going to have to run the ball to keep their offense off the field and keep our defense rested,” Cid said. “They had too many long drives against us last year,” he added, recalling Garfield’s 13-3 win.

Tailback Lance Fernandez leads Garfield’s offense. The junior has rushed for 882 yards and 12 touchdowns on 135 carries. He rushed for a game-high 173 yards in last year’s game. Fullback Larry Ravelo comes into the game with 383 yards on 67 carries.

Sophomore quarterback Nicky Peralta has passed for 1,003 yards and 10 touchdowns. He’s completed 74 of 137 attempts. Steven De La Torre has 15 receptions for 294 yards.

Roosevelt is led by quarterback Andony Flores, a threat passing and running. The senior has a team-leading 789 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 100 carries and has completed 52 of 95 passes for 523 yards and two TDS.

Running back Gilbert Herrera is closing in on Flores with 780 yards and eight touchdowns on 77 carries. Michael Galindo has added 422 yards on 61 rushing attempts.

The Garfield-Roosevelt series dates to 1925, with the Rough Riders holding the edge, 39-31-6.

“It’s not only an honor, but very exciting to be a coach in this game,” Cid said. “It’s also a lot of work, but a lot of fun with huge rewards.”