The scoreboard at Shoreham-Wading River High School reflected a 0-0 game with 54 seconds left Thursday afternoon as hundreds of community members stood around the football field.
But there was no game under way.
Instead, the 54 on the scoreboard was the number of one young man who couldn’t be there: Tom Cutinella.
Cutinella, an offensive lineman, was hospitalized for a head injury after colliding with another player during the third quarter of the Wildcats’ game at Elwood/John Glenn High School Wednesday. He was taken to Huntington Hospital at 6:05 p.m., 20 minutes after the hit, and later died. The junior was 16 years old.
In his honor, hundreds gathered at his team’s home field in Shoreham to mourn Cutinella’s death, including players from the Elwood/John Glenn team. Football players from Port Jefferson, Ward Melville, Centereach, Babylon and Mount Sinai also participated in Thursday’s memorial.
In addition to forming a circle on the field and holding hands, players ran around the track a few times as the crowd clapped.
Mount Sinai football player Nick Bongiorno, who also wears 54, said his team was supposed to play Hauppauge Thursday, but felt it was important to pay their respects at Cutinella’s memorial.
“Walking around and seeing all of these blank faces on everyone — all of them crying — it shows how he impacted Shoreham and the whole community,” he said.
Bongiorno said two of Cutinella’s cousins play on his team and described their reaction to Cutinella’s death as devastating.
“They can’t even talk,” he said. “They are completely shocked.”
Centereach football player Mike Turro told reporters how he and other players are mourning Cutinella while also trying to stay focused on the rest of the season.
“Everyone is sad about it,” he said. “It’s a freak accident — you can’t really help what happened. You still gotta go out and play.”
Reid K’Sean, who plays tight end and linebacker for Babylon, played against Cutinella last month. He described him as “a tough kid.”
“He was a hard hitter and flew to the ball,” he said. “It felt like a brotherhood [today]. It brought everyone together and it was very supportive.”