ST. CHARLES – Basketball’s bump-and-shove battles suited St. Charles North senior Matt Pretet and his left shoulder just fine for the past four years.
Navigating 10 shoulder dislocations in that span was easier in a sport that isn’t traditionally as rough as say, football, which Pretet is tackling in high school for the first time this fall.
North’s starting weak-side defensive end faced his choice of position groups when he elected to come out for the team last spring. Pretet picked the rock-steady nature of the trenches over more pronounced banging at linebacker. So far, his body and the North Stars have thanked him.
“The line is all physical, from the point they hike it to the point the ref blows the whistle, just like anything,” Pretet said. “But it’s a bigger grind instead of all that popping, so I thought it would be a little better on my shoulder.”
Pretet played linebacker and cornerback for Thompson Middle School in his most recent turn as a defensive regular. That was the fall of his eighth-grade year, a few months after Pretet first encountered shoulder trouble after a collision during an AAU basketball tournament in Kenosha, Wis.
Pickup football games in friends’ backyards and at Primrose Farm Park provided his lone snaps until this summer, when Pretet’s shoulder felt strong enough to give the gridiron a go.
Doctors advised him it might not be the safest choice, but also couldn’t rule football out. In the name of enjoying his final year of high school – and keeping busy before playing the 3 and 4 for North basketball in the winter – Pretet attended a May, after-school meeting for prospective 2012 football players.
Pretet showed his potential after only a few days of summer camp, and quickly emerged as a starter opposite strong-side end and classmate Wes Pasholk.
“I like playing with him, because he goes hard, too, and we both kind of get emotionally into the game,” Pasholk said. “Try to get pumped up and whatnot. We definitely feed off each other.”
Pasholk, who also has been starting at right guard, is used to controlling either line of scrimmage. He’s 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, and adept at the art of knocking others down as an accomplished wrestler and rugby player.
On paper, the 6-1, 190-pound Pretet isn’t drastically smaller, but giving up 40 or more pounds to someone still is a disadvantage – one of the few similarities Pretet has encountered from his eighth-grade playing days.
In North coach Mark Gould’s 4-4 defense, however, smart, speedy linemen are a good thing. Had North not switched schemes from a 3-5 during the summer – Gould took command of the defense in his final season while longtime assistant Jared McCall shifted to offensive coordinator – Pretet might still be a linebacker.
Early in the preseason, Gould told Pretet he reserved the right to move him around, but that was before the onset of 7-on-7s, when Pretet proved a quick study in mastering his new techniques.
“When we were one school in St. Charles, we had some great weak-side ends who weren’t very big, but they were quick and they played hard,” Gould said. “He reminded me of some of the guys that we used to have, and that’s how he’s playing.”
Pretet and the North Stars shut out Elgin last week for the team’s first win, and host Geneva and its formidable running game in Upstate Eight Conference River Division play tonight.
With a lightweight brace on a shoulder he keeps strong with rehabilitation exercises, Pretet is girding for the challenge.
He’s just as eager as he was a few months ago.
“My shoulder was feeling good, so I came out,” Pretet said. “I didn’t have any problems, and ever since then, it’s been fine.”