The legend of Hunter Newsom was born long before the junior linebacker/tight end made his first tackle or caught his first pass for the Grain Valley High School football team.

Eagles coach David Allie revels in recalling the tale of a bold sixth grader who earned a prize at one of his first youth camps in Grain Valley.

“It’s a defense-oriented day and I’m talking with Pete (Carpino, defensive coordinator) and we decide to have a little fun,” quipped Allie, who chuckles at the memory. “We ask if there is any sixth grader who will run over and grab a handful of leg hair off our offensive line coach (Gavin Grillo).”

Now, Grillo is just a bit smaller than a Buick, and twice as intimidating, but a hand immediately reaches skyward.

“It was Hunter,” Allie said. “He runs over behind Coach Grillo, grabs a big handful of leg hair and comes sprinting back. We’re all laughing so hard, we can barely stand up.”

Newsom, who has become an impact player for the Eagles on both sides of the ball this season, also laughs when the story is recounted following Tuesday’s practice session.

“I was fearless,” joked Newsom. “And I was small and I was fast. I used my speed as my stealth, grabbed that hand of leg hair and came back to the guys holding it up like a trophy. I’ll never forget that.”

Something else he’ll never forget – an 18-17 loss to Platte County this season as the Eagles saw a 17-0 third-period lead vanish as the Pirates downed Newsom and Co., for the fourth time in a row.

The Eagles said they are not out for revenge when the two teams get a rematch at 7 p.m. Friday in Class 4 state quarterfinal at Platte County.

“We want redemption. We want to show everyone who the real Grain Valley Eagles are, because you didn’t see them that night,” Newsom said. “I still have a bad taste in my mouth from that loss.”

A bit of that bad taste disappeared when he caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Parker Bosserman and led a sock-‘em-in-the-mouth Eagles defense to a 32-21 Class 4 District 7 championship win over Harrisonville last Friday, setting up the big rematch with the Pirates.

The Eagles had never beaten the Wildcats in postseason action and had not won a district title since Newsom was in preschool (2007).

“We pretty much dominated both sides of the ball against Harrisonville and that’s what we have to do against Platte County,” said Newsom, who had two receptions for 25 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown and made 9.5 tackles, including two for loss against the Wildcats. “We did that for three periods the first time we played them, but we found out you better take care of business for four quarters or you’re not going to win.”

Newsom is an undersized 6-foot, 190-pound outside linebacker/sure-handed tight end who plays with a bigger than life personality that radiates towards his teammates and coaches. He has 55.5 tackles and 16 tackles for loss on defense this season and scored three touchdowns on offense.

“All the guys love to play alongside Hunter and we love to coach him,” Allie said. “He’s so tough, and he’s a little bit ornery. He knows when to have fun and he knows when to get to business and he has been all business this season – on and off the field.”