Clintondale to honor former football coach

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published September 2, 2015

 Former Clinton Township Clintondale High School football coach Bill Apisa will be honored during the team’s Sept. 12 game against St. Clair Shores Lake Shore. Clintondale will name its field after Apisa at halftime of the game.

Former Clinton Township Clintondale High School football coach Bill Apisa will be honored during the team’s Sept. 12 game against St. Clair Shores Lake Shore. Clintondale will name its field after Apisa at halftime of the game.

Photo courtesy of Clintondale High School

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Former Clinton Township Clintondale football coach Bill Apisa, who piloted the program for 32 years, remains somewhat of a fixture in the program.

Apisa, who won 99 games games as the Dragons’ varsity coach, lives in Texas, but he returns to Michigan for a golf outing named in his honor. That outing has taken place for each of the last 32 years.

Apisa, who was inducted into the Michigan High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame in 1996, sticks around each fall to take in a couple of Clintondale football games.

After Sept. 12, Apisa’s presence will always be felt at the school, as a ceremony is set for that day that will see the Dragons’ football field named in Apisa’s honor. The official name will be Don Seiferlein Stadium-Bill Apisa Field, according to Clintondale Community Schools Superintendent Greg Green.

“This recognizes two of our most successful, long-standing coaches,” said Green, who announced the naming at Apisa’s golf outing earlier this summer. “Not only did Apisa excel on the field, he excelled in giving back to the school district. His golf outing not only helps fund the football program, but other things as well.”

“I was shocked. I didn’t expect it,” Apisa said Aug. 31. “I thought (Green) was talking about something different.

“I looked up and saw a banner behind with my name and the field on it and thought that was for something else. It caught me completely by surprise. I’m really thankful to the school district and the community for bestowing this honor upon me. I just hope that, in some way the rest of my life, I don’t mess it up.”

Clintondale, 1-0 at press time, takes on St. Clair Shores Lake Shore (1-0) at noon Sept. 12 at Clintondale. The ceremony honoring Apisa takes place at halftime of the contest. Clintondale alumni are invited to pregame festivities, set for 10:30 a.m. Sept. 12 on the school’s softball field, which include a continental breakfast.

Green said he expects a big crowd for the Sept. 12 game. The contest was moved to Sept. 12 in order to allow alumni and former players to take in the game and ceremony, Green said.

Apisa, a native of Honolulu, Hawaii, in his career earned several accolades. The Dragons’ coach earned Bi-County Conference Coach of the Year and State Regional Coach of the Year honors after leading Clintondale to an 8-1 mark in 1985. Apisa, who came to Michigan after college in 1967 to begin his teaching career, was named Macomb Area Conference Blue Division and State Regional Coach of the Year in 1990. That same year, Clintondale was named Macomb County Team of the Year after finishing 8-2.

“It was a popular consensus among alumni and former players that we do this based on his philanthropy and coaching prowess,” Green said. “It was time.”

Apisa first learned of a thriving job market for teachers in Michigan through his brother, Bob, who was fresh off of helping lead Michigan State to a football national title in 1965.

Apisa earlier this summer acknowledged that he had to leave behind his family to take his first teaching job at Chippewa Valley Middle School, but as he went on to become Clintondale’s football coach, he would create a new extended family for four decades.

“When I came (to Michigan) initially, it was a big cultural change for me,” Apisa said. “Getting here and finding that the job opportunities were plentiful helped me to get comfortable. Today, I don’t know if I’d go into (teaching) based on political and financial challenges school districts and teachers face, especially in terms of state funding.”

Several of his former players are now coaches.

Warren Cousino coach Brad Nettles, a 1987 graduate of Clintondale High, said Apisa instilled a blue-collar philosophy in his players. Nettles, who led Cousino to a division title in his first season at the helm, said Apisa taught his players character, leadership and teamwork.

Apisa is looking forward to the ceremony.

“It’ll be a pleasure and a real treat. I’ve had calls from former players who now live in Texas and California and other places, and they’re telling me they’ll be there,” said Apisa, who mentioned his parents, Laina and Tai, as two people he wishes were alive to see the ceremony.

“I’ll be thinking about all the guys who worked with me because they’re no longer living. Some of my former players are no longer here either. I miss them. A lot of my success comes from working with them.”

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