I hardly recognize myself anymore.

When I look in the mirror I see the same old face Iíve 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 didnít understand the football thing. The cans annoyed me, the sparkly shirts the women wore made me smirk, and I wonít even get started on the headphones.

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

Itís game day, after all, and Iím pretty sure the knot Iíve had in my stomach all week will be considerably worse by the time kickoff takes place at 7:30 tonight in Aledo.

Meanwhile, Iíll spend the day getting ready for tonightís big game between the Yellow Jackets and Bearcats.

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

See what I mean? Crazy.

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

Wednesday didnít help my mental state any when my sports editor, Brad Keith, who is equally gonzo about tonightís game, rushed into my office to tell me what Aledoís Coach Buchanan said.

ďHe said itís going to be a Ďstinkiní bloodbath!íĒ Brad screamed, pumping his fists into the air and hopping around.

A bloodbath?

Yikes. I donít like the word ďbloodĒ 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.

ďCoach Buchanan just told Brad Fridayís game is going 2 b a bloodbath.Ē

Moments later - zoom - the moms were responding.

ďReally! They (Aledo) better have a lot of band aids on hand,Ē said Kristi Washington.

Kathy Slemmons said, ďFor them.Ē

Their bravery made me feel slightly better, but their big girl talk didnít do much to ease my queasy stomach. Deep down, I knew they were as worked up over tonightís game as I was.

I know this because we moms all feel the same.

The worry isnít just about winning a game. Itís 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 motherís 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 tonightís 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 Stephenvilleís favorite Yellow Jackets to take the field.

Something tells me itís going to be a very special season - starting with tonightís 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.