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Shoreham-Wading River coach: It's a community effort now

A floral arrangement in the shape of a

A floral arrangement in the shape of a football jersey sits atop a vehicle in the funeral procession for Shoreham-Wading River High School student Tom Cutinella at St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church in Wading River on Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014. Photo Credit: James Carbone

The Shoreham-Wading River High School football team will play Saturday -- its first game since the tragic death of 16-year-old teammate and friend Tom Cutinella.

It has been a tough time for everyone involved, coach Matt Millheiser said, and the decision to play was not an easy one.

"It was definitely a difficult decision," Millheiser said, "there's no doubt about that."

The coach said the parents were strongly united in the decision to continue the season.

"We're all on board," Millheiser said. "We're going to need them; they're going to need us. It's a community effort now. It's not going to end at the end of this football season. It's maybe not going to end at the end of this year. It's going to be a long road.''

Shoreham-Wading River will host Wyandanch at 2 p.m. in a game that originally was scheduled at Wyandanch. Earlier this week, Wyandanch athletic director Tom Williams agreed to move the game in the best interests of the Shoreham and Wading River communities.

On Wednesday, Shoreham held its first practice since Cutinella died after collapsing following a hit during a game against Glenn in Elwood on Oct. 1.

"For the kids, it was a chance to feel like they're doing something normal again,'' Millheiser said. "We really didn't know what to plan and what we were going to get when we came out, but the kids were ready to go.''

Shoreham-Wading River enters the game with a 4-0 record and stands atop Suffolk Division IV.

"The success they have been having this year doesn't come for no reason. This is a good group,'' Millheiser said. "They're good players; they're hard workers and they focus on the task at hand. There obviously are going to be moments when we lose that focus. I don't know if that comes Saturday before the game or during the game or whenever that is.''

Millheiser said that despite the challenges, his team has been coping during a "very, very difficult time with a lot of emotion and a lot of things going on this past week.''

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