Lions’ end year with 5-6 overall record

Senior tight end cody Hilburn leaps over a Wahsburn defender during the final home game of the season for the Lions Nov. 6 at Fred Hughes Stadium.

Senior tight end cody Hilburn leaps over a Wahsburn defender during the final home game of the season for the Lions Nov. 6 at Fred Hughes Stadium.

Jacob W. Brower

Freshman quarterback Nathan Emert set a MIAA record for most pass completions in a season with 302 during Missouri Southern’s loss to Washburn on Nov. 6, while two of his favorite targets – senior wide receiver DeMarcus Mathes and senior tight end Cody Hilburn broke records of their own in the last game of their collegiate careers.

Emert, who already owns 15 Missouri Southern passing records, shattered the conference single-season completions record of 284 set by Truman State’s Chris Hegg in 1985. He is also one of only five quarterbacks in MIAA history to pass for over 3,000 yards in a season (3,406).

“Nathan has had a great season,” Southern head coach John Ware said. “You can’t say enough about his leadership. He has the perfect personality for a quarterback. He makes a mistake and he forgets about it. The best quarterbacks are the ones that have short memories and I believe he can be a great quarterback for us.”

With three seasons ahead of him, Emert said he looks forward to improving his game next year.

“I’ve got to eliminate turnovers, which is what I’m going to focus on in the off-season,” said Emert, who finished the season with 24 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions. “As a team, we can do some good down the road but there’s still a lot of work to do.”

Emert this year set new school passing records in 15 categories, among which are most passing yards in a season and most pass completions in a season. He is also third in school history in career pass completions and fifth in career passing yards. Mathes beat Rod Smith’s 1993 record of 68 receptions in a season with 69 catches on the year. He is also third in school history for most receiving yards in a season with 1,038.

“It feels great to get the record,” Mathes said. “We wanted the win (against Washburn), but to go out with my last catch breaking Rod Smith’s record, that feels good.”

Hilburn broke two single-game records for most touchdown catches by a tight end (2) and most catches in a game by a tight end (8).

“I’d much rather have the win, but we’ve made some progress this year,” Hilburn said. “This program is on the rise and I hope they have a lot of success down the road.”

Ware said the team would miss the leadership of Mathes and Hilburn.

“DeMarcus has been a tremendous athlete for us this year and Cody Hilburn is one of the best kids I’ve ever been around,” he said. “We’ll have some other guys that will come on and try to fill their shoes, but they’ll be missed.”

Other Lions who were named all-conference honorable mention include sophomore running back Wentric Williams, freshman tackle Matt Stout, sophomore defensive end Elbert Johnson, junior linebacker Atiba Bradley and senior cornerback Robert Spinks.