Sara Vanden Berge

I woke up Monday morning with a single thought: four more days until the big game.

This is not my normal morning thought process, which typically consists of nothing more than the desire for coffee, a shot of vanilla creamer and packing a semi-decent lunch for my kids.

But this week was different. Each morning was a countdown. Each night was full of talk about tonightís battle against the Stephenville Yellow Jackets and the Aledo Bearcats at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. We watched the old video from the game in August. My husband and sons talked strategy and plays. We iced my oldest sonís knees, gave him a little extra Advil and worked to keep him healthy all week.

And then we counted again.

Indeed, life in our house - and I imagine others in this community - has been different this week. The atmosphere was a mixture of anticipation, excitement and a weird somberness.

Iíve lived in Stephenville for nearly 20 years and although I donít understand all the ins and outs of the game, I do understand what winning tonight will mean to Stephenville.

The mom in me, however, canít think past my son. I remember the trauma he went through last year when a serious knee injury sidelined him for the season. I remember his disappointment when we lost to Aledo in August. I have watched his long hours of hard work and seen the exhaustion after a difficult practice. I have watched him sit quietly alone, contemplating tonightís outcome.

The entire experience has been an emotional roller coaster that has brought us to tonight.

Yes, Iím the sappy mom who tears up on the field when I see my boys in their uniforms. Iím the one who gets choked up when I watch the team gather around the tables every Wednesday night for dinner. Itís a mom thing and I know Iím not alone.

One of the greatest joys about being part of the Yellow Jacket experience is witnessing the camaraderie between the players. The other thing is experiencing the camaraderie between the parents.

Our two boys have played football for years, but everything changes at the varsity level when parents band together to get behind the team, and in the process, forge unexpected friendships.

Indeed, I have gotten to know countless families that before this year were merely acquaintances, and today, are good friends. The parents have moved through the entire season together, watching our boys through victories and struggles. Mothers have spent hours together cooking in the kitchen and decorating the locker room. Fathers have manned the grills, put out signs and even spent an afternoon together tying blue and gold ribbon around poles at the courthouse square.

Today, all of us our waking up with the same thought: Game day is finally here.

Many of us will meet at the stadium parking lot tonight to share one more meal together before gathering inside to watch our boys take the field in what will surely be the biggest, most exciting game they have played this season.

The long week is finally over. Game time is only hours away.

Now, thereís only one thing left to say: Go Jackets!

Sara Vanden Berge is the managing editor of the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at 254-968-2379 ext. 240 or†