(With Park View High School slated to merge with Bluestone HS to form the new Mecklenburg County HS in 2022, the South Hill Enterprise is running an ongoing series that looks back at some of the outstanding athletes, teams and coaches and their stories through the years. This is story No. 39 in the series.)
Who says that true love can’t be found on the gridiron?
It was certainly a special night at Dragon Field on September 8, 2017 when Park View High School assistant varsity football coach Dakota Mitchell dropped to one knee after the game and proposed to team trainer Claire Wright with an assist from the Dragons’ cheerleaders and football players.
Mitchell, who also served as the JV football head coach, had asked the football team and Park View cheerleaders to hold a banner that said “Will You Marry Me?”
Fortunately for the young football coach, his blushing future bride said “Yes” as the crowd applauded and the coaches, team members and cheerleaders congratulated the happy couple.
Mitchell said he put his plan into motion that week even though there were a few wrinkles he had to iron out.
“Claire and I had become friends with Krystin (Cassidy) who was the cheerleading coach,” said Mitchell. “I had talked to her about it because Park View football had been such an important part of our lives. My parents were coming to town to see me coach for the first time and Claire’s parents would be there so (the idea) just came together.”
Mitchell said his initial plan was to propose at halftime but the Park View band had a special halftime ceremony planned that evening so he decided to wait and pop the question at the end of the game, win or lose.
“I talked to (Coach Kelvin Hutcheson) that week and asked him if it would be okay,” Mitchell said. “I did not actually tell the team about it until we got together for the Feed the Dragons dinner. The players were excited. A lot of those guys had gotten to know Claire and me.”
Wright, who was working as a volunteer trainer for the Dragons’ team that season, has football in her blood as she served as a manager for the Park View football team during her time at Park View. Her Dad is a former Dragons’ football coach and both of her parents were teachers at the school.
“(Dakota) had been a little squirrelly all week,” Wright said of her future husband in the days leading up to the proposal. “I thought maybe it was because his parents were coming to watch him coach for the first time.”
While Wright never found out about the proposal before it actually happened, virtually everyone else at Dragon Field that night knew as Mitchell had to notify a number of people about his plans.
“I was really surprised,” Wright said. “I never thought I was going to cry but then it was just instant waterworks.”
The couple were married on June 20, 2018 with Coach Hutcheson, who is also a minister, presiding over the wedding nuptials.
Claire, a Physical Education teacher at Park View, and Dakota, a teacher at Rivermont School in Chase City, said married life is going well.
“You are going to have your ups and downs but we never quit,” Mitchell said.
His bride, using a little football analogy said, “But sometimes it seems like its third-and-30.”
Dakota quickly answered, “But we haven’t gotten to fourth down yet.”
“And no one has punted,” Claire added with a laugh.
As for the proposal, Mitchell said he was glad his bride said yes on the special night at Dragon Field.
“I knew I was going to marry Claire,” he said. “I had no backup plan.”