PROVIDED BY PHIL FARINELLA
The Cobras in 1971 stifled opponents’ offenses with a swarming defense led by All-State linebacker Paul Zinter and future NFL players Don Latimer #82
and Eddie Edwards #75. In this photo, linebacker Larry Lee Jr. #51 and Zinter tackle a Winter Park ball carrier as other Cobras converge during a firstround
state playoff game. FPC held Winter Park to 47 total yards of offense. Most of the Cobras in this photo went on to play college football.
returning starters. Not so at Central.
Only five starting players on the championship team in
1971 started regularly for the 1970 squad: Mike Latimer at
split end on offense and as a defensive back; Paul Zinter, linebacker;
John Cobb, who started at defensive end as a junior
and offensive tackle the following year; Lloyd Cobbs, center;
and running back Willie Smith.
The 1970 team was known for its explosive offense, led
by running backs Randy “Sweetback” Walker, Harrison
Freeman and Chappel Branch and an offensive line that >>
year ranked second in the state. They reached No. 1 by the
third week of the season and would keep that position until
mid-November of 1972, before their 20-game win streak was
snapped. The 1972 team ended with eight wins and two losses.
The 1971 Cobras survived a few close calls, including a
memorable win over Merritt Island, 27-25, when their opponent’s
field goal attempt hit the goal post and bounded away
for no points as the clock ran out. Some remember that game
as one of the best in state history.
Lee said the Cobras remain the only Florida high school
football team to reach the state championship in the school’s
first year of existence, then win the whole thing in the second.
Lee did not play football until his senior year, lured onto the
team by his buddy and classmate Mike Latimer.
He became a key part of the Cobra’s mighty defense that
year. Mike Latimer was an All-State and a high school All-
American, and later played at the University of Miami, then
signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Falcons. Lee played
football for historically black Livingstone College in North
Carolina; captained the team his senior year; and is in the
school’s athletic Hall of Fame. He signed as a free agent with
the NFL’s Denver Broncos.
Twenty-five players from the 1970 and 1971 Cobra teams
were offered college scholarships, and 21 played college
football. Remarkably, eight of them made it to the National
Football League. Some, like defensive linemen Don Latimer
and Eddie Edwards from the 1971 team, had long NFL careers.
Others had shorter football careers or were drafted and
decided not to play pro ball.
One would think that a team that won a state championship
after coming close the year before would have lots of
Showing off his championship ring during a small reunion of early Fort
Pierce Central football players is Larry Lee Jr., a successful St. Lucie County
businessman and former Florida state representative who was a mainstay of
the 1971 team’s defense as a linebacker.