When watching Woodinville’s high-flying offense of the modern day, it’s hard to imagine the Falcons once were a purely option team. But former fullback Pat Conniff will attest to it.
"We implemented the option going into my junior year in 1995," Conniff said. "Coach (Terry) Agnew and the coaching staff spent the summer over at the Air Force Academy learning what they called the Wing Bone back then. It took off and became very successful."
At 220 pounds, Conniff was a bruiser, playing in tandem with his best friend and quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo. The duo eventually signed with the University of Washington, going on to lead the Huskies to the 2001 Rose Bowl championship.
But back in their Woodinville days, it was all about high school rivalries.
"For us it was always Inglemoor and Redmond," Conniff said. "Those were our two biggest rivalries. Times have changed quite a bit in the years since I was in high school. Back then Bothell was the whipping boy. In my senior year we beat them something like 71-0. There was a lot of rivalry in terms of off-the-field antics with Bothell though."
Conniff was asked for an example.
"One time, the Bothell football team comes to watch the Bothell basketball team," Conniff said. "Half of the Woodinville football team is in the stands on the other side of the gym. A kind of `Meet You After The Game’ situation happened a couple times. That kind of stuff. Some young testosterone shenanigans. It made for some good memories and good times back then."
In his senior season of 1996, Conniff rushed for 1,266 yards and nine touchdowns in helping lead Woodinville to the KingCo championship. Then came the first round playoff showdown with #1 ranked Kentwood.
"We were a big underdog to Kentwood," he said. "We got all fired up at the start of the game, when Kentwood came out and they walked right in front of us, which was like a taunting thing. That got us razzled up. The game started slowly but we got some momentum going with the option and we poured it on and beat them soundly.
"We had a lot of camaraderie on our team," he said. "We sang The Gambler on the bus after every victory. I was told they still do that, so it’s a fun tradition at Woodinville."
The big win projected the Falcons into the USA Today’s Top 25 poll. But then came the semi-final game against South Kitsap in Tacoma’s Lincoln Bowl. Traces of pain remain in Conniff’s voice as he recalls that dark day.
"To this day, and I’m sure it’s the same for Marques, it goes down as one of the most painful losses in our entire sports careers," he said.
"We were favorites," he said. "It was a miserable day. A downpour of biblical proportions. The stands were flooding out. In the fourth quarter we were ahead by 17 points. But then Marques and I had an exchange issue deep inside our own territory. The ball got scooped and they scored. Moments later, Marques had a pass picked off and returned for a touchdown. The wheels had come off. We were all just pretty much shocked."
That proved to be the last time Conniff ever played for Woodinville.
These days, he works in real estate as an appraiser for Lead Appraisal Inc., and has a broker’s license for The Cascade Team. He also still follows the Falcons.
"I always make sure to get to at least one game a year," he said. "And usually two or three. Coach (Wayne) Maxwell is a great guy and the team is exciting to watch."