Buckingham County football coach Craig Gill knew he had a good team before the 2013 season started.
"(But) If someone would have told me we'd go to the third round (of the playoffs) with this bunch, I'd have gone to Vegas with them because they know something I didn't know."
You couldn't blame Gill for his surprise. Each of the Knights previous two seasons had ended the same way -- with a loss in the second round of the Eastern sectionals.
But with a new playoff format came new luck for the Knights, who host Gate City in a 2A West state quarterfinal Saturday at 2 p.m.
"We have a great bunch of young men and we're going to play hard and get ready for a great game Saturday afternoon," Gill said.
Buckingham, the bracket's No. 6 seed, is hosting the game because No. 7 seed Gate City upset No. 2 Union in the second round. That means the Knights get to sleep in their own beds and avoid a 5-hour bus ride to southwest Virginia.
"We're a small town. Friday nights and Saturday afternoons we're the only show in town so we're looking for a great crowd, great atmosphere," Gill said. "This is what high school football is all about."
As much as Gill is surprised by his team's current standing, anyone who followed the team at the beginning of the season may be equally surprised.
Buckingham dropped two of its first four games of the season, although to quality opposition. The Knights fell in their season opener to Appomattox, a playoff team, then lost to rival Goochland, a fellow state quarterfinalist and reigning state champ, in its fourth game of 2013.
"I've been coaching a long time and I've never had a team improve from the first couple games to where we are now. We've played really good football," Gill said.
After the loss to Goochland, the Knights proceeded to win five of their last six to earn a spot in the 2A West bracket.
They opened the playoffs by dismantling James River, then went on the road and upset No. 3 seed Dan River, 15-6, marking the school's longest playoff run in over a decade.
"To be a leader of this team that made it to the third round means a lot," senior running back and James River District Offensive Player of the Year Kenneth "Peanut" Johnson said. "All the other guys who haven't made it to the third round are happy that we did make it so now we just have to keep on moving forward."
"The players that played here for the past 3-4 years have showed us a lot and it feels good. It's a good feeling," added sophomore quarterback Leon Ragland.
If the Knights want to continue making history they'll need to get by Gate City Saturday.
"We're having fun but at the same time we have to be serious because this is a big game," Johnson said. "We finally got over the second round, made it over the hump. Now it's all business now."