San Dimas’ Justin Winrow adds defensive swagger to Saints title chances on Saturday night

By Clay Fowler, Staff Writer
Juston Winrow’s demeanor provides the perfect cloak to the unbridled excitement that courses through the San Dimas High School tight end when a rare pass play is called.
“I try to act the same,” Winrow said, “so the defense doesn’t pick up on anything.”
For the senior, who is low-key to put it lightly, unbridled excitement isn’t too far down the list from, say, obvious apathy.
Until the snap of the football, that is.
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“He has a calm demeanor,” San Dimas head coach Bill Zernickow said. “But the way he plays is not calm. He is a monster. He’s got a lot of natural strength to him. He’s a lot stronger than most kids his size.”

The 6-foot, 205-pounder is a starting outside linebacker for a San Dimas defense that has allowed 11.6 points per game on its way to Saturday’s CIF-SS Mid-Valley Division championship game against top-seeded Monrovia. With 20 receptions for 536 yards, he’s also the leading receiver for the Saints.

San Dimas, of course, has attempted 110 passes to 524 running plays. If it was the reverse, how could Winrow contain his excitement?

“He’s so quiet, it took us a while to figure out how to coach him,” Zernickow said. “A lot of coaches need feedback from their players all the time; he’s not going to give you that. For a while it was hard to tell if he was getting it. Now he has this nod he does.”

A run to the CIF championship is a fitting end to Winrow’s roller-coaster football career. He played quarterback, running back, wide receiver, fullback, strong safety, punter and kicker for San Dimas’ freshman team. When, as a sophomore, he was asked to play defensive end on the varsity the next season, Winrow decided to give up football.

“It just wasn’t as fun to me anymore,” he said. “But when I came back as a junior it was fun all over again.”

Winning can have that effect.

The Saints won 10 games last season but fell a point short of a Valle Vista League championship and three wins shy of a CIF title.

Despite his offensive upbringing, Winrow devoted himself to the role of defensive end as a junior and was excited about a move to outside linebacker this season, when the coaching staff threw him a bone. The Saints were in need of a tight end when Tre Evans was converted to a running back in the Wing-T offense just before this season began.

“We needed a guy to step in and play tight end, but we didn’t want another offensive lineman,” Zernickow said. “We wanted somebody who could run away from you.”

Winrow already had the athleticism to play receiver; it’s the Hawaii native’s fierce blocking ability that has surprised the Saints coaching staff. Winrow admittedly prefers a fly route to sealing a defensive end, but he’s accepted his responsibilities.

The Saints have so few pass plays, however, Winrow believes once he releases the defense doesn’t have to think hard to figure out which route he’s going to run.

The mere threat he creates, though, demands the defense respect him, according to Zernickow, therefore opening up the Saints’ potent rushing attack.

Offense is his passion, but defense is Winrow’s strength, according to Zernickow. The team’s defense has delivered while the offense has been better than expected. The result is a trip to the CIF championship game.

Winrow is excited. Just don’t expect him to show it.

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