David Love had firsthand experience to tell him that this season's move up to Class 5A shouldn't be viewed as a daunting task, but an intriguing challenge for the Bishop McGuinness football team.
“We moved up to 5A in basketball last year and we won state,” said Love, a basketball player who also starts at defensive end for the Irish.
“We saw it as an opportunity to show that we're the real deal,” added linebacker Nick Jeffreys.
Love, Jeffreys and the rest of the McGuinness defense are a big reason why the transition to 5A has been smooth so far.
The fourth-ranked Irish are 4-0, with three of the wins coming against 5A opponents, including a 52-0 win over El Reno in the district opener last week. They also knocked off fifth-ranked Tulsa Kelley 34-10.
In all, the defense has yet to allow more than 13 points in a game, perhaps an unexpected strength considering there were so many new starters on the field.
“We knew we had the potential to be a good defense,” second-year coach Justin Jones said. “Our staff worked really hard putting the puzzle pieces together, and our kids have done a good job of executing.
“We've exceeded expectations a little bit, but one thing about Bishop McGuinness, there's a certain expectation of a level of play for defense, and our kids are meeting that right now.”
Even with the new starters, the unit gelled quickly and has been in sync since the opening game.
Jones points to the players' ability to stay focused on their assignments, rather than worrying about individual success.
The Irish have four players with at least 30 tackles, and nine with 18 or more. Jeffreys, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound linebacker, leads the unit with 43 stops.
“We're confident in our defense's ability,” Jeffreys said. “Our defensive line has been really good, and that makes our jobs easy behind them.”
That defensive line is in for a test against a strong offensive front at Carl Albert, which hosts the Irish Friday night.
Love and Bobby Sweeney have been strong at the end spots, with Andrew Williams and Johnathan Higgins anchoring the middle of the line.
With Carl Albert at 1-3 on the season, Jones is preparing his squad to face an angry team that is more talented than its record would suggest.
“We expect it to be a dogfight,” the coach said. “We know they're backed into a corner a little bit. We're a team that needs a quality win against another quality opponent, so it's a big-time opportunity for our kids.”