The Upside of being Down: Glenwood DE Cleveringa a positive influence for Demons after negative past
Glenwood Springs at Evergreen
Who: No. 15 Glenwood Springs (6-4) at No. 2 Evergreen (10-0)
What: First round of Class 3A state playoffs.
When: 11 a.m. Saturday
Where: Trailblazer Stadium, Evergreen
Game Notes: Glenwood Springs and Evergreen have played each other the past two seasons, with Evergreen winning 38-32 in 2012 and Glenwood winning 35-7 in 2013. Saturday’s winner will play either seventh-seeded Holy Family or No. 10 Fort Morgan in the second round.
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — There’s rarely a moment when there isn’t a smile on the face of Shane Cleveringa, even though there wasn’t much for him to smile about six years ago.
The senior defensive end and running back for the Glenwood Springs High School football team is almost like the class clown of the football team. He dances, he smiles, he jokes with teammates and, in between all of that, he makes big hits that make him a staple on the Demons’ defense. Still, the native of Chicago moved to Glenwood prior to his eighth-grade year following a childhood that wasn’t so happy — one that helped him find football for the first time and happiness in a place he never expected.
“It’s like everything that’s right in this world has happened to me now,” Cleveringa said, grinning ear to ear.
Everything seemed to go right for the Demons in their regular-season finale at Steamboat Springs this past Friday, and it helped give Glenwood one of the final spots in the Class 3A state playoffs. On Saturday, Glenwood hopes even more goes right when the 15th-seeded Demons (6-4 overall) play at second-seeded and unbeaten Evergreen (10-0) in a first-round matchup. Kickoff is slated for 11 a.m. Saturday at Trailblazer Stadium.
Everything, prior to Cleveringa’s move to Glenwood before his eighth-grade year, seemed to be going wrong for the Demons’ defensive starter. He said he was in a household where he received both verbal and physical abuse, which he said lasted over a period of close to five years.
Prior to that, as a 10-year-old child, he said he witnessed a domestic violence situation unfold in front of him as he was walking through the front door of his home. He also witnessed drug use — an occurrence that happened off and on over the course of a year — and recalled times when a former stepparent displayed verbal abuse, hit him, threw him down the stairs of his home and, at one point, flipped him and cracked his skull open.
“I was really afraid at the time,” the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Cleveringa said. “The only thing that I could do about it was, like coach said to me, control my attitude, my effort and my life. That’s when I focused on my studies and I focused on being a good person, even if my home situation wasn’t good.”
That changed when he had the opportunity to come to Glenwood. His aunt and uncle, Jodi and Scott Van Deursen, invited him to come out and assist in caring for Cleveringa’s cousin, Amanda, whose handicap required her to be in a wheelchair and receive 24-hour care and supervision. So Cleveringa came over with his grandmother and stayed in Glenwood for a month, and he immediately fell in love with the area and its outdoor recreation opportunities.
Meanwhile, a stable home was never found back in Chicago for Cleveringa to come home to, so the Van Deursens decided to enroll him at Glenwood Springs Middle School for eighth grade. That’s where he started playing football, even though he didn’t know what he was doing.
“I actually said at one point that I would play center and wide receiver,” Cleveringa admitted.
By then, he’d disclosed to his aunt and uncle what he’d been going through in Chicago. So when members of his family there weren’t financially able to bring him back, the Van Deursens began the process of adopting Cleveringa.
Two years later, the adoption was finalized.
“My aunt and uncle came over to the pizza shop I was at, and they thought it would be really funny to look really sad as they came in,” Cleveringa said. “Then my uncle smiled and started crying, my aunt started crying and I started crying. We’d just won. I couldn’t believe it.”
It couldn’t have worked out better for the Demons, either. This season, Cleveringa has two quarterback sacks, a forced fumble and 83 tackles, which ranks fourth on the team, fifth among players in the 3A Western Slope League and 21st among all players in the classification.
Oh, and there’s the sense-of-humor benefit to having him on the team, too.
“He’s kind of the unofficial spirit of our team,” Glenwood coach Rocky Whitworth said. “In situations where things are real serious, he’s the go-to guy that will find a positive note to things and always work to put a smile on everyone else’s face.”
It’s safe to say Cleveringa wasn’t the only one on the Demons’ roster who was smiling when the postseason brackets were announced on Sunday. And he, like the rest of the Demons, hopes those smiles will continue.
“How great of a feeling was it? It ranks right up there with when I was adopted. That’s how good of a feeling it was,” Cleveringa said. “I had to pinch myself a few times to make sure it was real. I’m so proud of or team, so proud of our coaching staff, so proud that we’re here. And I know that we’re real excited and ready to go for this game against Evergreen.”
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