By RYAN GORMAN
A 16-year-old high school football player died after sustaining a head injury during a Wednesday afternoon game.
Tom Cutinella, a guard and linebacker for the Shoreham-Wading River High School Wildcats, on Long Island, collapsed on the field after colliding with a player from the opposing team. He reportedly died hours later at a local hospital.
"It was a big hit," Shoreham coach Matt Millheiser told Newsday.
The teen was taken off the field around 6:00 p.m. on a stretcher after a violent collision, Millheiser told the Riverhead News-Review. The crowd rose and applauded as Cutinella left the field for what would be the final time.
The game did not resume.
Cutinella, a junior, was in intensive care when he passed away, sources told Newsday.
News of Cutinella's passing was heard by more than 60 coaches, teammates, friends and relatives gathered at Huntington Hospital. Many were still wearing uniforms or school colors after rushing from the game to the waiting room.
Some fell to the ground crying, others hugged each other, many were in shock.
"He was a great kid," coach Millheiser lamented.
Cutinella, who wore number 54, was popular and a role model for younger students.
"He excelled academically, had a great sense of humor and was just a great individual overall," Shoreham-Wading River Superintendent Steven Cohen said in a statement. "He was well-liked among students and staff and he will truly be missed."
Cutinella was a member of the school's Natural Helpers peer mentoring program. He played football since ninth grade, it was his first year with the varsity team. Cutinella also played lacrosse.
"We're a small community and we're all devastated," Shoreham-Wading River school board
member Jack Costas told Newsday. "It's always tragic when someone so young and so full of life has their life ended. It's going to be a very, very difficult road ahead from this."
The head coach of Shoreham's opponent, shared in their foe's grief.
"His health and safety is more important than any high school football game," John Glenn High School coach Dave Shanahan added.
"And our thoughts and prayers are with his family and the entire Shoreham-Wading River team and community. I asked my team to pray for him."
Friends and relatives took to social media to share in their grief.
Girlfriend Sofia Clements pleaded on Twitter for him to pull through.
"Your [sic] such a strong person Tom fight through this," she wrote.
Her tweets then revealed her anguish in the moments after he passed.
"NO," she wrote. "This isn't real. I love you Tom, this can't be real.
"My best friend #54," she continued. "This is a nightmare. I can't do this.
"I can't wrap my head around this."
It is not known what kind of helmet Cutinella was wearing during the hit.
Cutinella is the third-New York-area youth football player to recently die.
Staten Island 16-year-old Miles Kirkland and New Jersey 12-year-old Jeremiah Price both died last month while on the practice field.
Shoreham has made grief counselors available, officials said. A candlelight vigil for Cutinella will be held Thursday night on the school's football field, according to social media posts.