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If You Didn't See The 2021 East LA Classic Football Game, You Missed Out

Side-by-side photos of players from Roosevelt (in white jerseys) and Garfield (in blue jerseys) high schools on their respective sidelines.
The pandemic set the stage for a night that would go down in Los Angeles lore.
(Alborz Kamalizad
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LAist)
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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.

Two photographs side-by-side. In the photo on the left a man stands amongst a group of football players dressed in blue jerseys. He is speaking to them and pointing. They are on the sidelines of a football field. The photo on the right is a closeup of a handful of young football players. We are very close to one of their faces. There are people in stadium bleachers in the distant background.
Garfield High School's Bulldogs rallied late, but just missed pushing the team over the top.
(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.

Two photographs side-by-side. In the photo on the left a man in a yellow shirts that has the word "Riders" written on it lifts a large trophy, covering his face. He is among a small group of football players in white jerseys. In the photo on the right, the same man holds the trophy lower and is leaning into a hug with one of the football players.
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.
(Alborz Kamalizad
/
LAist)
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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.”

Two photographs side-by-side. Two football players embrace. One of their faces is visible and laughing. They are among a small crowd with a stadium in the distant background. There is a lot of motion blur in the photo. In the photo on the right a large crowd fills the frame from the foreground to the distance background. Arms are raised. A man with a yellow shirt holds up a large trophy in the middle of the picture.
Teammates celebrate and Coach Parral raises the Classic trophy for the crowd. Security could not keep jubilant fans off the field.
(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.

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

Two photographs side-by-side. In the photo on the left a large crowd fills the frame. Many of the people have their arms raised and many are dressed in red. In the photo on the right, a man in a yellow shirt holds a football player's helmeted head in his arm and seems to be speaking into the player's ear. They are on the sidelines of a football field. There are other football players in the background as well as a referee and a crowd in the distant stadium seats.
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.
(Alborz Kamalizad
/
LAist)
Two photographs side-by-side. The photo on the left is a closeup of a whiteboard with incomprehensible sribbles in blue. In the photo on the right, we see over the shoulder of two young men who are hunched over a digital tablet. One points at the screen on which we can see a football lineup. There are other a couple other people crowded around them.
Garfield games out plays on a whiteboard and with video playback.
(Alborz Kamalizad
/
LAist)
Two photographs side-by-side. The photo on the left is a closeup of a young football player. He has his yellow helmet pulled back so that his face is visible. He wears a white jersey. In the photo on the right, two football players with different jerseys collide on the sidelines of a football field. A handful of other football players are rushing towards them from the background and we see a corner of the stadium bleachers in the deep background.
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).
(Alborz Kamalizad
/
LAist)
Two photographs side-by-side. In the photo on the left a football player reaches up to shake hands with a group of men in the stands. They are all dressed in blue. In the photo on the right, two men walk away from the camera in the distance. One carries a trophy. They are in what looks like an empty stadium with bleachers.
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.
(Alborz Kamalizad
/
LAist)
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