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Long Island Community Mourns Loss Of High School Football Player Who Died After On-Field Collision

WADING RIVER, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Friends, family, classmates and others packed a Long Island church for the funeral of a high school football player who died after an on-field injury during a game.

A police escort led the funeral procession as a hearse carrying a huge football jersey with Tom Cutinella's number emblazoned in flowers arrived at St. John the Baptist Catholic church in Wading River on Tuesday morning.

An overflow crowd of hundreds watched as the casket of the young football star, who dreamed of going to West Point, was carried into the church, followed by his stunned parents and three younger siblings.

Hundreds Attend Funeral For Long Island Football Player Who Died Following On-Field Collision

"It's just such a loss for the community," said family friend John Higgins. "You can tell from the outpouring and everyone that's here, that we loved him very much and that he was a role model and an example for the entire community."

"Absolutely flawless," family friend Brian Sheehan said. "I've never heard a person say anything bad about Tom. Tom was the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back."

"There's just not enough words to describe the type of kid that this community lost," coach Hans Wiederkehr added.

Many students held one another and some appeared near collapse, unable to understand how the standout kid and soon-to-be president of his class died so suddenly, CBS 2's Jennifer McLogan reported.

"(He was) the most amazing kid I ever knew. Just to see how many people are here to love and support him, makes me happier than I could ever be," classmate Jake Blandi said.

"He was such a good football player that they moved him up for the last game and I got to play side by side with him," a fellow player told 1010 WINS' Glenn Schuck. "At all times, he was such a great person to be around and everyone loved him."

Mourners Arrive For Funeral Of Long Island Football Player

"It's sad. It's really just difficult to take in how this happened," one of Cutinella's friends told WCBS 880's Mike Xirinachs.

"(He was) actually a brother to me, so I started breaking down too, completely sad to see," classmate Tommy Brady said.

The 16-year-old junior at Shoreham-Wading River High School died last week after he collapsed following a collision with an opponent during the third quarter of the game at John Glenn High School in Elwood.

Cutinella was taken to North Shore-LIJ Huntington Hospital and rushed into the intensive-care unit after undergoing surgery, but he never recovered.

His official cause of death has not been given. A police report said it resulted from a head injury and Shoreham-Wading River High School has not commented on its investigation.

Schools Superintendent Steven Cohen called the teen's death a "freak accident."

"It is pretty obvious how important it was for everyone to be here. The family experiencing a tremendous amount of grief," Cohen said.

Hundreds Attend Funeral For Tom Cutinella

Sheehan said Cutinella's death has shaken all of Wading River, 1010 WINS' Mona Rivera reported.

"We're going to heal as a community, slowly over time, but God really did reach down and grab an angel," he said. "That's Tom Cutinella. That's how he lived his life."

On the day he died, Cutinella was running late to school. His dad realized his son had forgotten his jersey and met him halfway to the bus.

The teen's final words to his family were: "Dad, I love you. Tell mom I love her too."

"I feel like he was standing with me the whole time, holding my shoulder, saying 'it's going to be alright, buddy,'" classmate Billy Brady said.

A scholarship in Cutinella's memory has been established through the Shoreham-Wading River Athletic Club, McLogan reported.

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