In the week leading up to last season's biggest game, Indian Rocks Christian's Damian King was left rubbing his head in agony.
King was plagued by the unpredictable, debilitating migraine episodes that can leave him unable to function, let alone put on a helmet and pads and run around the field. This migraine was severe enough that he had to be hospitalized for two days.
He returned to play in the Class 2A region quarterfinals against Naples First Baptist but wasn't himself. The headaches, the blurred vision were still there.
"Damian wasn't a factor in the game," Golden Eagles coach Mark Buchanan said. "You could tell he just wasn't right."
King painfully watched as Indian Rocks Christian's season came to an end in a 42-21 loss.
"It was real tough to not be out there and help my team," King said.
That was then.
Now, King is, by all accounts, doing fine. His migraines are no longer an issue thanks to a stronger prescription of ibuprofen.
On Friday, King and the Golden Eagles face First Baptist again. This time, IRC is home and King is at full strength.
"We've all wanted this opportunity for a while," King said. "For me it's real important because I want to make up for what happened last year."
Since transferring from St. Petersburg last season, King has played seemingly every position from quarterback to running back to receiver to defensive back.
King has made his presence known on nearly every play, infusing a faltering offense last season with electricity. His ability to make an optimal gain on limited touches helped him rack up some impressive numbers.
In 2012 he finished the regular season with 368 yards rushing (10.8 yards per carry), 235 receiving (23.5 yards per reception) and six interceptions (30 yards per return). He also scored a team-leading 10 touchdowns in helping the Golden Eagles advance to the playoffs as the Class 2A, District 5 runnerup.
This season IRC has a quarterback (Garrett Ross Johnson), which allows King to use athleticism in other ways. He has posted even better numbers with 719 yards rushing (12.40 per carry), 530 receiving (18.9 per reception) and four interceptions (32 yards per return). But the biggest impact King has is turning those big plays into points. He has a team-high 20 touchdowns, doubling his total from a year ago.
"There's no question Damian is a big playmaker for us," Buchanan said. "We try to find as many ways to use him as we can."
King said the biggest reason for his production, as well as everyone else on offense, is the improved offensive line.
"Our line has been so big for us," King said. "They were young last year, but they've gotten more experience and have improved so much."
Last week, King had limited opportunities to maneuver past defenders with just seven carries and no receptions in a 24-22 win over Moore Haven.
Buchanan knows that has to change Friday.
"We have to find ways to get the ball to Damian as much as possible," Buchanan said.
This time, King knows he won't be slowed by migraines.
"I feel as good as ever," he said. "Hopefully, we can keep winning."