In about 24 hours, Christian Wilson went from being a high school all-star to becoming the proverbial small fish in the big pond.
But his Montour High School coach believes it's only a matter of time before Wilson becomes as big of a standout in the Atlantic Coast Conference as he was in the WPIAL.
Wilson, a running back/tight end/linebacker for Montour, played in the Big 33 Football Classic Saturday night in Hershey. By late Sunday evening, he was in Chapel Hill, N.C., ready to move in before starting college classes today at the University of North Carolina.
"He's worked so hard to get where he's at," Montour coach Lou Cerro said. "Saturday he got to show himself off on the field with all the great players that are up there, and soon he'll get to show what he can do [in the ACC]. North Carolina has got a gold mine."
Wilson played tight end and specials teams for the Pennsylvania team in its 31-16 victory. A two-time PG West Fabulous 22 selection, Wilson rushed for 2,035 yards on 299 carries as a senior, scoring 29 touchdowns to rank among the WPIAL's best offensive players.
At 6 feet 3, 235 pounds, Wilson is seen as a prototypical H-back in college, a hybrid tight end/fullback who can carry [or catch] the ball out of any number of formations as well as be a trusted blocker.
Montour had been a perennial loser in recent seasons, going 6-30 the previous four seasons before the breakthrough last fall. Cerro was a big part of that turnaround since taking over as coach, but he credited Wilson's leadership, too.
After a pair of 1-9 seasons to begin his high school career, Wilson was part of a team that enjoyed an undefeated regular season and WPIAL Class AAA championship game appearance.
North Carolina hasn't had a winning season since 2001, and Wilson is ready to forge a similar leap forward for the Tar Heels as he did with the Spartans.
"Those four years I was in high school made me realize you have to work harder to get better," Wilson said. "That will benefit me because North Carolina is in the same process. I kind of know what that feeling is and what everyone has got to do to make the team better."
Andrew Taglianetti had no such hard times to endure while at Central Catholic -- the Vikings lost only four games combined the past three years and were 16-0 en route to the PIAA Class AAAA title his senior year.
Taglianetti, a South Fayette resident who also was selected to the Big 33 game, always has been a special player. He named the Post-Gazette's WPIAL Class AAAA Player of the Year any other way and was perhaps the best playeron the Vikings' special teams.
"I have yet to see a kid dominate three sides of the football in high school as much as he did," Central Catholic coach Terry Totten said. "Offensively, it's his catching and running and defensively, of course, tackling and covering and intercepting. He wasn't just a great guy on the special teams because he returned kickoffs -- though he did a lot of that. He made tackles, held on extra points, blocked extra points ... he was just all over the place."
Name the special teams unit -- kickoff return, kickoff coverage, punt return, punt return coverage, field goal blocking ... Taglianetti was on it for Central Catholic. And he found ways to standout amongst standouts on special teams for the Pennsylvania squad against Ohio.
Taglianetti blocked a first-quarter Ohio field-goal attempt Saturday. "I take a lot of pride in special teams," he said. "I think it's a huge asset that can change the game. It's something I can consistently do well. The coaches put me in the position to make plays, use my speed and athleticism. I just do whatever I can to come through for the team."
Taglianetti was to move in to his dorm at Pitt this weekend. Though he is projected to have a bright future as a defensive back for the Panthers, special teams figures to be the manner in which he makes the most immediate impact.
Taglianetti was one of several Pitt recruits to have strong showings at the Big 33. Most notably from the PG West area was Aliquippa receiver Jonathan Baldwin, who caught a 10-yard touchdown pass.