Sports, UCM Sports

Mules host rival Bearcats, honor nine seniors in season finale

Senior offensive lineman Derrick Puni will have played in 38 games over his four seasons with the Mules as the anchor of an elite offensive line. Puni earned All-American, All-Region and All-MIAA honors throughout his Mules career. (Photo by Peter Spexarth/For The Muleskinner)

As the Mules football team nears the end of its regular season, players are looking forward to their senior game Saturday where they will honor the nine players who will take the field one final time in their college career.

The Mules will face a tough opponent, the 8-1 Northwest Missouri State Bearcats.

Photo by Peter Spexarth/For the Muleskinner

Senior defensive back Dylan Albertson is second on the Mules defense in total tackles with a career-high 65. Albertson was a third team All-MIAA selection in 2016 when he recorded 51 tackles and five interceptions.

This season was filled with unexpected twists, plagued by injuries and loaded with victories both big and small for the Mules, making it a year to remember.

This season, the Mules football team has suffered injuries both defensively and offensively. During the preseason, two senior linebackers, Austin Miller and Ricky Pesek, were injured and forced them to medically retire from the game.

In the first game of the season against Fort Hays State, the Mules lost two more players to season-ending injuries: senior quarterback Brook Bolles and junior defensive back Frank Hunt.

Miller said being injured and hearing the news that he would not be able to take the field again made him realize football should not be taken for granted.

“It really sucked going down during fall camp and it hurt even worse when they said I would be done for the season. This made me understand that football is a privilege and not a right,” Miller said.

When asked about his favorite memory as a Mule, Miller reminisced about the game against Emporia State last year.

Photo by Peter Spexarth/For the Muleskinner

Senior tight end Seth Hebert was the 17th Mule to be named an AFCA first team All-American for his 34 receptions, 573 yards and five touchdowns in 2017. This season, Hebert has caught 25 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns.

“All I really remember after scoring was looking to our sideline and seeing all my Mule brothers rushing the field,” he said. “I swear I’m going to remember that moment forever.”

Derrick Puni, senior offensive lineman, admitted this year has been a disappointment but remains hopeful as there are still a couple of games left.

“In a nutshell, this season has been disappointing and it is not what we were aiming for,” Puni said. “Even though we were riddled with injuries our motto is ‘Next man up,’ so we just have to fight through the adversity.”

Puni believes the injuries sustained by the players have shaped the season.

“We lost a lot of our key guys and our record this year is a reflection of that,” he said.

Seth Hebert, senior tight end, said this year has not been what he expected but he is focused on finishing strong.

“This season is not what I am used to especially as a Mule,” he said. “But it makes no difference because we still have a few games left against some tough opponents, so I am just focused on them.”

Photo by Peter Spexarth/For the Muleskinner

Senior wide receiver Kyrion Parker has caught 16 touchdowns in his two seasons with the Mules and is tied for the most touchdowns in the MIAA this season with 10. Parker made two highlight one-handed catches this season that you can see here and here.

Going into Senior Day, Hebert said he has one goal.

“I just want to win,” he said. “The only thing on my mind going into it is just wanting to put on a show for our fans and winning the last game of my career as a Mule.”

When asked what he would like to be remembered for, Kyrion Parker, senior wide receiver, said, “My competitiveness, work ethic and just for playing the game the way it should be played.”

Parker said for him, Senior Day will be bittersweet.

“It’ll be sad knowing my time as a Mule is over, but when one door shuts another one opens,” he said.

The Mules are looking for their first win over the Bearcats since a 31-21 victory in 2012. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at Walton Stadium/Kennedy Field.

Editor’s Note: Michael Moana is a member of the Mules football team. 

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