What was supposed to be a fun afternoon of football ended in tragedy on Wednesday afternoon. 17-year-old junior at Shoreham-Wading River High School, Tom Cutinella, was playing a great game for his Shoreham-Wading River High School Wildcats against the Knights at John Glenn High School in Elmwood.
Then, the unthinkable happened. During the third quarter, Tom, a varsity guard/linebacker for the Wildcats collided with another player, sustaining severe head injuries. News 12 reports that Tom collapsed shortly after the collision with his opponent.
An ambulance arrived and medics rushed Tom to Huffington Hospital. The hospital’s intensive-care waiting room was flooded with over 60 people, including football Coach Matt Millheiser, Tom’s family, friends and teammates. They were all quietly pacing, praying and sitting silently as they waited for hours to hear a report following Tom’s long surgery, according to Newsday.
When the hospital representative entered the waiting area to sadly tell Tom’s loved ones that he had passed away, a wave of emotion flooded the room at the devastating news. “Two people fell to the ground, weeping, and dozens of friends and teammates consoled each other.” The coach sat alone in silence, his hands folded and his face frozen, reported Newsday.
A great athlete, Tom had been playing football since ninth grade, and this was his first season playing varsity. Tom had just told his family on Sunday how much he loved football and enjoyed his Sunday practices, as reported by PIX News.
He also played lacrosse. Tom was also very bright academically and was running for class president.
District officials informed Newsday that Tom Cutinella “was a member of the Natural Helpers program, which focuses on peers helping peers by giving advice or just a sympathetic ear.” Shoreham-Wading River Superintendent Steven Cohen admired Tom.
“He excelled academically, had a great sense of humor and was just a great individual overall. He was well-liked among students and staff and he will truly be missed.”
Cohen is certain that safety will be a topic addressed at the next board meeting on Tuesday, he admitted to Newsday.
“I think that, obviously, we’re expecting to get a full report, find out exactly what happened and do an audit of our equipment and, if there is some way to ensure safer play, then, obviously we’re going to have to make some adjustments.”
One of the school board members, Jack Costas, was truly effected by this tragic event, according to Newsday.
“We’re a small community and we’re all devastated. 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.”
Tom Cutinella’s coach, Matt Millheiser, summed it up rather well as he was leaving the hospital Wednesday night, having just heard the horrific news. With great emotion, he said, “He was a great kid.”
Photo Credit: Maxpreps.com, NYPost.com