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Bill Apisa, a long-time Clintondale teacher who served as coach of the Dragon football team from 1980-1997, died Wednesday in Gonzales, Texas, after a battle with cancer. He was 74. (Macomb Daily file photo)

Football

Bill Apisa stressed family at Clintondale

Coach won most football games in Dragon history

The extended family that Bill Apisa nurtured has lost a patriarch.

Apisa, a long-time Clintondale teacher who served as coach of the Dragon football team from 1980-1997, died Wednesday in Gonzales, Texas, after a battle with cancer. He was 74.

Apisa’s teams won four league championships in a program where coaching longevity is a hallmark, one from which several coaches have sprung.

Clintondale’s sense of family was no accident under the influence of Apisa and his predecessor, Don Seiferlein.

“He and Mr. Seiferlein spearheaded that family feeling,” Bob Walmsley, a former Clintondale player, said Friday before the L’Anse Creuse baseball team he coaches took the field for a game in Port Huron.

“Seif and coach Apisa were buddies,” Walmsley added. “They talked about family all the time.

“Mr. and Mrs. Apisa knew my family, my brothers and sisters, our spouses and kids. It was the same for everybody.”

Clintondale named its football field in Apisa’s honor in 2015. The Dragon venue is known as Bill Apisa Field at the Don Seiferlein Stadium.

“He really stressed the Clintondale family,” Brad Nettles, a former Dragon who coached Cousino to the 2016 Macomb Area Conference Blue Division football championship, said at the time of the field naming.

“He was a coach that connected with the players and made everyone feel like family,” added Chris Smith, who played at Clintondale and Michigan State and coached Eisenhower to the 2016 MAC Red title.

Seiferlein coached the Dragons from 1965-1979, with a one-year hiatus in his tenure. Jim Scarcelli, Apisa’s successor, coached from 1998-2005, and former Dragon Dave Schindler has had the job since Scarcelli stepped down.

Even in retirement, Apisa, who won more games than any other Dragon football coach, was a fixture at the annual Clintondale golf outing.

“So many people revere the guy,” Walmsley, who played Dragon football from 1979-82, said. “He wouldn’t let us talk about anything less than being tough and being our best.

“Coach was one of the toughest guys I ever knew.”

Apisa’s 1990 Dragons went 8-2, including a state playoff berth, and were named the Macomb County Team of the Year.

William Tai Apisa was born Feb. 6, 1943, in Pago Pago American Samoa.

Survivors include his wife of 49 years, Sheila, and his son, William Tai Apisa Jr., of Smiley, Texas.

Apisa received degrees from the University of Hawaii and Wayne State. He is a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame.

Apisa attended the Smiley Methodist Church and was a member of the Masonic Lodge and Shriners Aloha Temple.

A memorial service will be held at a date to be determined in Michigan, Apisa's obituary said.

Memorial contributions may be made to Clintondale Football, 35100 Little Mack, Clinton Township, MI, 48035, or to the American Cancer Society, the obituary added.

Last Updated: 5/26/2017 8:59:41 PM EST