South East's 31-28 victory over Garfield on Friday night did more than give the Jaguars their first victory in the history of an Eastern League rivalry that has spanned seven years.
It also served as a tribute to two South East players who were sidelined after a tumultuous week.
Running back-linebacker Gerardo Leos is out indefinitely after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Offensive lineman Jorge Garcia was sliced in the arm Friday morning while assisting a female classmate who was fatally wounded in a campus stabbing.
"We've always said this game was going to be for them," said South East cornerback Juan Nevarez, who made two big plays to preserve the victory. "They've always given their all."
After Garfield had shaved a 31-14 deficit with consecutive touchdowns, the Bulldogs (0-5) drove to the South East 40-yard line with 11 seconds left. On third down, Nevarez broke up a long pass. On fourth down, he tackled Lance Fernandez on a hook-and-ladder play to end the game.
"Those were the two biggest plays I've made this whole year," Nevarez said.
Leos was with the Jaguars (5-0) from the start, carrying the team flag when players ran onto the field before the game. After being hospitalized earlier in the day, Garcia joined his teammates on the sideline in the fourth quarter.
South East tailback Robert Lewis, who rushed for 168 yards and two touchdowns in 18 carries, wore Leos' No. 14. So did Jaguars Coach Derwin Henderson.
"It's a pretty emotional day for them," Henderson said of his players. "There's been a lot of crying going on. But our kids were determined. They just believed in themselves, that's the biggest thing."
South East quarterback Jonathan Santos completed 14 of 22 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.