I hate the word “Sir.”
More accurately, I don’t mind the word, but I don’t really like it when it’s directed at me.
I cringe every time a high school player addresses me that way. I know they’re trying to be nice, but it’s not nice, it makes me feel old.
I’m neither a sir nor am I Mr. Strickland. Mr. Strickland is my father, and he’s never been a journalist.
(For the record, callers, I’m not Brian Strickland, either. Turns out he’s a field-goal kicker at Munford.)
The deep feelings of my sir-phobia are rooted in the fact that I’m not old — not to be confused with I don’t want to grow up.
But for a fleeting second on Friday night — because that’s all you have on deadlines for non-deadline thoughts — I felt really, really old.
Waiting around the locker room to do my postgame interviews, it dawned on me that I’d hit a milestone in my life: I had just covered my 20th regular season of high school football.
My professional journalism career is older than the players I cover.
And it’s almost old enough to drink.
Again, as ancient as that sounds, it’s not. I’m only — say it with me, “ONLY” — 37, and I have no gray hairs on my head (technicality, maybe.)
I started this whole business as a baby-faced Jacksonville State freshman, and why The Star ever asked me to come back after my tryout is beyond me.
But through this ride, I’ve seen a lot of good players and good football.
I’ve seen a lot of bad football, too.
And I don’t even want to think about the amount of processed-cheese-coated nachos I’ve put into my body.
St. Clair County at Alexandria: There’s only one win that separates St. Clair County and Alexandria. And while I haven’t seen St. Clair County play, I have seen the Valley Cubs. In reality, there’s no way these two teams are that close — especially not with the way Alexandria has played of late.
This should be a semi-easy win for the Valley Cubs. That, among all else, is something they truly deserve for earning the region title … Alexandria 42, St. Clair County 21.
J.B. Pennington at Piedmont: I used to have a pipeline for all kinds of good J.B. Pennington information, which also came with lots of candy. Not that I need it for this one, but I could use some candy … Piedmont 38, J.B. Pennington 7.
Sylvania at Saks: If anybody in Alabama had reason to have a Rodney Dangerfield (look him up kids), it’s the Wildcats. Having only lost the bookends of the regular season, they really should have cracked into the Top 10 at some point.
They never did, which could be a good thing.
Never underestimate the importance of the old chip-on-the-shoulder motivation. And they’ll need it — the Rams aren’t bad. The only clear loss (one of their two) came against No. 8 Geraldine. … Saks 24, Sylvania 21.
Spring Garden at Shoals Christian: Just hand it to Forrest Livingston (a lot) and this one should be over by halftime … Spring Garden 44, Shoals Christian 21.
Anniston at Oneonta: Anniston and Oneonta have had some pretty good battles over the past few years. This, however, does not look to go down in that category.
Are the Bulldogs capable of beating them? Sure. But they’ll have to play their very best game of the season. … Oneonta 37, Anniston 15.
Munford at Fairview: The teams are pretty close, but when you go on the road in the playoffs, you just never know. The key could be how long the Lions’ players celebrated that win over Talladega. The first round of the playoffs is no time for a hangover. … Fairview 22, Munford 21.
Randolph County at Woodland: It’s never easy to beat a team twice. And it’s really not when you’ve got your star tailback at less than 100 percent. It was a 47-28 Woodland win when these two teams met last time. It’ll be a little bit closer this time around. … Woodland 42, Randolph County 35.
Donoho at Hackleburg: The Falcons got about the worst possible draw for the first round. It could be a rough one … Hackleburg 40, Donoho 28.
Sardis at Lincoln: Their record may be ugly, but the Golden Bears have enough talent to make a playoff run. They’ve just got to snap this losing streak. Considering the opponent — and the competition the opponent has played — that shouldn’t be that difficult. … Lincoln 35, Sardis 24.
Jemison at Clay Central: I’m chalking up last week’s loss to a semi-fluke. … Clay Central 48, Jemison 0.
Handley (6-4) at Calera (8-2): You’d never have been able to convince me this team would have lost four regular season games. I know they’ve got the ability to beat Calera, but at this point, I don’t know … Handley 32, Calera 21.
Horseshoe Bend at Wellborn: Usually you don’t see a matchup of 8-2 teams in the first round of the playoffs. One would expect that only two losses would come with the right to be at home in the first round.
But for the Generals, that wasn’t the case.
They’ll travel to The Hill, a tough place to play on any night, but it will be an especially vocal crowd when you add in a playoff atmosphere.
Both teams are solid, and both teams’ season has gone the same way with one clear-cut loss and one narrow, heartbreaking defeat. Wellborn’s came to Woodland. Horseshoe Bend’s came to third-ranked Reeltown, 31-28.
Their strengths are different, as are their weaknesses. It’s cliché to pick this way, but I really do think Wellborn’s 12th man gives way for the narrow victory … Wellborn 35, Horseshoe Bend 28.
Assistant Managing Editor Bran Strickland: 256-235-3590. On Twitter @Bran_Strickland.