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Brothers motivate Mitchell goal-scorer

Andrew Dematos shares every game he plays and every goal he scores with his brothers.

Mitchell's striker ranks among the county's leaders with 11 goals and 32 points, and he honors Anthony, who died, and Steven, a U.S. Army soldier, after each goal.

"Those goals mean everything in the world to me," Dematos said. "Every time I score, I give a salute to the sky for them and my family."

"The family's been through a lot," said Mitchell coach Pio Rizzo, a teammate of Anthony's at River Ridge during the late 1990s.

Rizzo graduated in 1997, a year ahead of Anthony. Both played on two state semifinal teams.

Rizzo is in his fourth season as Mitchell's coach, but Anthony died in a New Year's Day car crash in 2001. He was 22, and Andrew was a high school sophomore. Later that year, Steven left for Iraq and currently is on his second tour in the Middle East.

"I wish they could be here seeing me," Dematos said.

Dematos, a senior, admittedly lost his focus as a youth soccer player and struggled to deal with his brothers' departures. Rizzo said Dematos has matured greatly during the past year or so.

"He appreciates things more; his family, every day, all the things we take for granted," Rizzo said.

"You can mourn someone for so long until you celebrate their life," Dematos said.

"I didn't believe (Anthony died) for the longest time. I didn't want to accept it, but I had to. Now I know he's smiling down on me."

Dematos' recent accomplishments also have made 23-year-old Steven proud.

"He's always been there to push me," Dematos said. "He talks me through things. He helps me a lot with just his whole outlook on life."

Growing up playing soccer in west Pasco, the three brothers always were close, Dematos said, adding he and Steven became "a lot closer" after Anthony's death.

Dematos has been scoring timely goals since late last season. With Ryan Villiard, who last season set single-season school records with 31 goals and 76 points before signing with Catawba (a Division II school in North Carolina), increasingly double-teamed as the postseason loomed, Rizzo looked to Dematos to contribute more offensively.

Dematos responded by scoring in a 1-0 win over Ridgewood that clinched the Sunshine Athletic Conference title. He also had a goal in the 3-2 win over Land O'Lakes for the Class 5A, District 5 title and another in a 4-2 region quarterfinal victory against Lake Gibson.

"When it came down the stretch, Villiard was a marked man," Rizzo said. "We needed someone to step up as another scoring threat. (Dematos) took the ball and ran with it."

Dematos finished last season with 11 goals and 27 points, second on the team to Villiard. Dematos' next goal will give him a single-season high.

And when he gets it, once again he'll look to the sky.

Dematos said he always will miss his brothers. But he added the experience of losing one and not being able to see the other often as helped him mature.

"I think as much as it hurts me," he said, "it's helped me more."