ST. LOUIS — Coaching football is one of Damion Mitchell’s passions.

He loves coaching so much he does so at two places, Matthews Dickey and Lutheran North High School.

At Lutheran North, where they affectionately call him “Coach Dee.” The Crusaders are preparing for their next opponent. Recently, Coach Dee has been battling an opponent of his own.

“The last five months, I’ve been going through chemotherapy,” Damion said. “When I go in for chemo, I am in the hospital for five days.”

Damion is battling lymphoma. The fight, though, hasn’t stopped him from continuing to coach.
“If I didn’t have football, my battle wouldn’t have been as easy as it’s been,” Damion said. “Football has helped me through this.”

A couple of weeks ago, Coach Dee hit a milestone in his cancer battle. After his final round of chemotherapy treatment, he rang the bell at the hospital.

“It was a sigh of relief to get through that last round of chemotherapy,” Damion said. “All the nurses and all the staff just welcomed me with open arms from when I started there until I left. So ringing that bell was a huge accomplishment for me.”

Right after his treatment, Damion was back to being Coach Dee. He made the Lutheran North Football team’s meeting ahead of its matchup with defending state champion Francis Howell.

The game ended up being historic. A back-and-forth affair went down to the final seconds. That is when Lutheran North Quarterback Dakarri Hollis threw the game-winning touchdown as time expired. The Crusaders beat Francis Howell. It marked the first time one program beat state champions in back-to-back weeks. The week prior, Lutheran North knocked off defending Class 3 champ Blair Oaks.

After the contest, Lutheran North head coach Kyle Wagner dedicated the game to Coach Dee as he continued to inspire the players on the field.

“Those guys have picked him up,” Wagner said. “They understand that they’re playing for him. They’ve rallied around the fact that we have people and bigger things to play for.”

“It’s been a motivation to do it for Coach Dee,” Lutheran North Football Player Jordan Carter said. “He’s been coaching us to be the best we can be. So we try to uphold that standard.”

“To beat the Class 5 state champions at their place was huge,” Damion said. “I got two gifts on that Friday.”