I hardly recognize myself anymore.

When I look in the mirror I see the same old face I’ve been applying makeup to for years staring back at me, but inside, things have changed.

The problem? High school football.

Years ago, when my husband and I first moved to Texas, I didn’t understand the football thing. The cans annoyed me, the sparkly shirts the women wore made me smirk, and I won’t even get started on the headphones.

Fast forward 17 years and the birth of two of my own football players, and I’m up three sparkly shirts, four cans (one that is very fancy and another that is very large) and a jersey with my son’s varsity number on the back, which, as you read this column, I am most certainly wearing.

It’s game day, after all, and I’m pretty sure the knot I’ve had in my stomach all week will be considerably worse by the time kickoff takes place at 7:30 tonight in Aledo.

Meanwhile, I’ll spend the day getting ready for tonight’s big game between the Yellow Jackets and Bearcats.

I even took the day off work so I could go to this morning’s pep rally and be on hand to cheer on the team before they get on the bus to Aledo.

See what I mean? Crazy.

I’ve been like this all week - soaring from giddy excitement before plunging into a mass of nervous energy.

Wednesday didn’t help my mental state any when my sports editor, Brad Keith, who is equally gonzo about tonight’s game, rushed into my office to tell me what Aledo’s Coach Buchanan said.

“He said it’s going to be a ‘stinkin’ bloodbath!’” Brad screamed, pumping his fists into the air and hopping around.

A bloodbath?

Yikes. I don’t like the word “blood” much. The sight of it makes me gag and the thought of an entire bathtub filled with blood nearly sends me over the edge.

So in my instant moment of panic, I did what all overly-dramatic women do.

I sent a text message to a couple of my fellow varsity moms.

“Coach Buchanan just told Brad Friday’s game is going 2 b a bloodbath.”

Moments later - zoom - the moms were responding.

“Really! They (Aledo) better have a lot of band aids on hand,” said Kristi Washington.

Kathy Slemmons said, “For them.”

Their bravery made me feel slightly better, but their big girl talk didn’t do much to ease my queasy stomach. Deep down, I knew they were as worked up over tonight’s game as I was.

I know this because we moms all feel the same.

The worry isn’t just about winning a game. It’s about our sons - and how they feel about the sport and all that it means to them.

We watched our boys work every day all summer to stay in shape. We watched them agonize through two-a-days, cried when we thought the heat was getting too much for them, then felt a strange sense of pride when they got back on the field the next day to do it all over again.

It is only a football mother’s heart that can be warmed by the scent of a stinky locker room or love it when the team shows up at their homes unannounced and en masse to clear out the pantry.

Today is finally here and tonight’s game is just hours away. Soon, we will be gathered in the stands wearing sparkly shirts, shaking cans and listening to the radio with our headphones on while waiting for Stephenville’s favorite Yellow Jackets to take the field.

Something tells me it’s going to be a very special season - starting with tonight’s big game.

Go Jackets!

Sara Vanden Berge is the managing editor of the Stephenville Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at 968-2379 ext. 240.