Rushing Everett to glory

Challman leads Seagulls back

By AARON COE

Herald Writer

EVERETT — A couple of years ago, Ben Challman was a ski racer.

He thought he might be the next Tommy Moe.

Though the Everett High School fullback is still a ski freak, these days he enjoys carving up Western Conference 3A defenses as much as the moguls at Stevens Pass.

When Challman gave up ski racing, it meant no more training five days a week. He wouldn’t be quitting school and going to a ski academy like some of the guys he competed against. It also gave him a chance to become one of the state’s most feared running backs.

"It’s pretty intense," said Challman, who has rushed for 885 yards and nine touchdowns in only six games this season. "I know guys who have given up their lives for ski racing. It’s like gymnastics. It’s all year-round. You drop out of school and go to an academy."

Challman has found a way to be both a star and a kid at the same time. The 6-foot-2, 206-pound bruiser is part of a Seagulls team that is trying to return Everett football to its glory days of playoffs past. Everett is 3-1 in the Wesco 3A, and will play a struggling Lynnwood team tonight. If the Seagulls can get by a tough Lake Stevens team next week, they stand an excellent chance of making the postseason, which is something few outside the team thought possible.

"Everyone had us picked at the back of the pack," Challman said. "This group of guys, I always knew that when we were seniors, when it was our turn, that we were going to come out and give everybody a show."

The Challman show has caught the attention of college coaches. He’s being recruited by several Pac-10 schools, which are also impressed with Challman’s play at inside linebacker.

Most people think of Challman as a burly back who’ll smash his way straight ahead for an ugly three yards. But he also possesses speed (he has run the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds) that has surprised defenders and resulted in several long runs, including an 87-yard touchdown against Monroe on Oct. 2.

Challman credits much of his success to a solid offensive line, and his fellow running backs who will break a defense that pays all of its attention to the fullback.

Brian Price is the little guy (5-8, 150) who lines up behind Challman. He’s put up big enough numbers (646 yards) to be the conference’s fourth-leading rusher.

Price says he owes it all to Challman.

"When I line up in the backfield, I’ll look at the linebackers and see that they are all looking at him," Price said. "And I just kind of smile. I’ll gladly ride his coattails."

The inside-outside duo has made it tough for defenses. Though Everett almost never throws a pass, opponents can get burned by Price when they focus too much on Challman. But if they don’t pay enough attention to Challman, he’ll pile up more than 200 yards, as he has done three times this year.

The same work ethic that made Challman a competitive ski racer has made him a dominant football player. The natural ability it there, but is brought out by a determination to get better.

"The big thing for him is his offseason work ethic," Everett coach Paul Lawrence said. "Ben sets the tone for our team."

These days, Challman heads to the weight room instead of the mountains. He put on an additional 25 pounds of muscle during the offseason, and improved his speed and agility. He works out, sometimes seven days a week, he says, not just for a college football scholarship, but an Everett state playoff berth.

"It would be incomparable," Challman said. "The state playoffs are what everyone dreams about. It would be awesome."

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