Fancher provides Hawks with intense leadership

Woodland's Levi Fancher (43) pushes through Morgan's defense Dec. 3 during the Class quarterfinals in Beacon Falls. The Hawks won, 47-21. –RA ARCHIVE
Woodland’s Levi Fancher (43) pushes through Morgan’s defense Dec. 3 during the Class quarterfinals in Beacon Falls. The Hawks won, 47-21. –RA ARCHIVE

SOUTHINGTON — It’s a good thing Woodland’s football jerseys aren’t green. Levi Fancher might actually be confused with the Incredible Hulk.

Fancher, the senior linebacker and captain, is emotional leader of the Hawks’ defense that will have its hands full in Friday’s Class S state championship against Ansonia.

If there’s a tackle to be made or a turnover to be forced, he’s usually there. And if he is, he makes sure everyone knows about it with his muscle-tensing celebrations.

“Intensity is always good,” Fancher said at Wednesday’s CIAC media luncheon at the Aqua Turf. “I bring a lot of intensity to the team on the field and in the weight room, and I think that’s a good quality of a leader.”

Fancher is a leader in every sense of the word. He’s atop the school’s all-time defensive stat charts, including tackles (257) and sacks (21), but he said he prides himself more on his captaincy than anything.

“I never thought about breaking the sack record or the tackle record,” Fancher said. “Our main goal was to be state champions; that’s been my dream ever since I can remember. I was never really for the personal records. Anybody who knows me would say I’m a team player.”

He got to learn the ropes early, starting as a sophomore on the 2011 team that went 6-4. Fancher played alongside his older brother, Joe, for all of that season and half of the 2012 campaign until Joe went down to a season-ending ACL injury.

“It was fun, but at the same time he would push me a little harder,” Levi said. “It was a great experience. I loved playing with him by my side. He taught me a lot as a captain, too. He really led the team. He was the heart and soul of the defense and everybody looked up to him as a leader. He never made any excuses. When he went down to his ACL injury, I knew I had to step up.”

Fancher’s play last season led him to All-Naugatuck Valley League honors, and he’s one-upped himself this fall to make himself an All-State candidate. Woodland head coach Tim Shea is effusive in his praise of the 5-foot-11, 219-pounder.

“He’s very good athletically and very strong, but he’s got some intangibles,” Shea said. “He’s got a great sense for the ball, his motor never quits and he’s just mean on the field. On defense, you have to want to get to the ball. He wants to get to the ball.”

And when he gets there, the momentum resounds through the entire roster.

“When I see Lee make a big stick, it fires us up,” Hawks quarterback and fellow captain Tanner Kingsley said. “I know that they did their job to get me on the field, so it makes me want to do my job and lead our team down the field.”

Shea, who was Woodland’s defensive coordinator from 2002-07, knows a good defense and knows what Fancher brings to the table gives his unit a boost.

“If you look at the better defenses out there, there’s a lot of emotion with great motors all over the field,” said Shea, who puts Fancher up with 2005 graduate Matt Dorosh in the group of Woodland’s best linebackers. “We’ve had teams like that in the past that have done very well.”

The only thing separating Fancher from the Hawks’ other greats is a state championship ring, which he will have a chance to win if he can lead Woodland to an upset of Ansonia. Win or lose, though, he will leave a gaping hole in the middle of the Hawks’ defense.

“I hope they say I was a great leader and a team player,” Fancher said. “I cared about my teammates and my friends. If my records hold for a few years, that’s good, too.”