By Robert Barrett
The East Los Angeles Classic rivalry was put to good use on Saturday to help raise money for both Garfield and Roosevelt high school. Alumni from both schools had a chance to strap the pads back on and play in the First Annual Garfield vs. Roosevelt Alumni Football Game at ELAC Weingart Stadium.
This was a full speed, full contact game between these Los Angeles rivals. Graduates from both schools were on the field and in the stands and the atmosphere was similar to the Annual East Los Angeles Classic.
The game was organized by Alumni Football USA which travels the United States and helps organize football games which are then used as a fundraiser for the participating football programs. Fifty percent of all pre sale tickets are donated back to the schools. “The guys that played get to give back, and play at the same time, so it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved,” said Roosevelt Alumni Football Assistant Coach Javier Cid.
The game started at 6pm with over fifty players in uniform on both sidelines. The players on the field were not the only alumni participants, but both sidelines had alumni cheerleaders, yell leaders and Roosevelt had their alumni band to add to the flavor to the environment.
Even though this is considered by most to be the biggest high school rivalry in Los Angeles, the players and crowd were there for a good time and it was a day for the families. “That’s one of the best honors for me, to be able to play with two of my brothers,” said Garfield Alumnus Steven Torres
Roosevelt received the ball to start the game but after a failed fourth down attempt would give the ball to Garfield at their 36 yard line. Garfield would start aggressive but penalties’ would back them up to their own 45 yard line.
On the second play of the game for Garfield, Steven Torres, class of 2007 would find a gap and break open for a 45 yard touchdown run, which was emphasized with a flip into the end zone. The extra point would be missed and Garfield would hold a 6-0 lead.
Roosevelt’s next offensive drive would end quickly when Roosevelt quarterback Jesse Diaz, class of 2009 threw an interception to Garfield corner Benito Ruacho, class of 2003. Roosevelt’s defense would hold Garfield to a three and out and would receive the ball from a punt.
Starting deep in their own territory the Roosevelt offense was hindered by penalties. The drive was stopped when Garfield safety Eric Nava, class of 2000 intercepted another pass from Diaz. The first quarter would end 6-0.
Early in the second quarter Garfield quarterback Nava, who had intercepted a pass in the first quarter would complete a 17 yard touchdown pass to Sergio Martinez, class of 1999 and after a successful extra point Garfield would expand their lead 13-0.
Most of the second quarter was slow due to good defense and penalties. The biggest sequence of the game came late in the second quarter.
With the half time only a minute away, Garfield quarterback Patrick Vargas, class of 2009 completed a long pass to a diving Eric Nava for a 29 yard gain. With the clock running Garfield had a high snap which sent the ball back sailing 37 yards in the wrong direction. The ball was picked up by Torres who began to side step defenders and run down the field, and after getting a huge block was able to flip into the end zone to end the half. After a failed two point conversion Garfield would lead at halftime 19-0.
Garfield would receive the ball to start the half and methodically run the ball killing the clock. Garfield ran the ball so well that Roosevelt only had one offensive position in the third quarter, but Roosevelt’s defense kept Garfield out of the end zone.
The fourth quarter began very similar to the third, with the ground game dominating until Roosevelt quarterback Diaz completed an 18 yard pass to Art Hernandez, class of 2008. This completion sparked Roosevelt all the way to the end zone were Diaz would throw a 7 yard touchdown pass to Cesar Guerrero, class of 2000. After a failed two point conversion the score would be 19-6 in favor of Garfield.
With the clock and score on Garfield’s side they would run the ball and kill the clock until they turned the ball over on downs. Roosevelt would take the turnover and put the ball into the end zone one last time when quarterback Diaz completed a 9 yard touchdown pass to Saul Jimenez, class of 2005. After another failed two point conversion Garfield would be leading 19-12 with only a few seconds left in the game.
After Garfield recovered the onside kick attempt it was official, Garfield had won the first annual alumni football game, 19-12.
After the game both teams lined up and shook hands. Unlike a regular high school football game there was much more emotion in this traditional display of respect. Players from both sides shared hugs, and fist bumps. Bob Cazet founder of Alumni Football USA said it best, “you’re not enemies anymore, your opponents.”
The trophy for the East Los Angeles Classic Alumni game will be housed at AJ’s BBQ Pit in East Los Angeles along with photos and quotes from the game.