You don't work football. You play it.

Mounds View football coach Aaron Moberg's reminder at practice this week probably sounded foreign to a group of players who have done nothing but work since their 2018 season ended one game short of the state tournament.

"With playoffs, sometimes the stress and the tension can keep you from enjoying the moment," Moberg said.

"We wanted our kids to enjoy being out there together and playing the game."

The smiles kept coming throughout a 48-13 dismantling of Friday's visitors from Buffalo.

The victory clinched the Mustangs' first state tournament appearance in five years.

Mounds View (8-2), ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press poll, advances to play No. 2 Lakeville South next Friday in the Class 6A quarterfinals at Eden Prairie High School.

Senior quarterback Cole Stenstrom of the Mustangs threw three touchdown passes to senior Jack Roeber and ran for two scores.

Mounds View's defense limited the tremendous Buffalo duo of quarterback Aidan Bouman and receiver Michael Tweten to two touchdowns.

When the Bison (5-5) did score, Mounds View responded with touchdowns drives of its own each time.

"That's probably what I was most proud of tonight," Moberg said. "When they did make a play, we took the momentum right back."

The Mustangs' gang green defense, which came into the game riding two consecutive shutouts, dictated the action.

Buffalo's six first-half possessions resulted in one touchdown, one punt, two drives ending on downs and two interceptions by Mounds View's Mateo Cisneros.

"They dropped a lot of guys back into coverage," Tweten said. "It was either run the ball or pass into a pretty loaded secondary."

Said Moberg: "Our defense is the staple of Mustang football.

"Our defense played probably the best they have all year because Buffalo has a really good offense and they did an awesome job against them."

The Mounds View offense was no slouch either.

Two conversions on fourth down propelled a scoring drive capped by Brian Tebbutt's 5-yard touchdown run for a 21-7 lead.

The second Stenstrom-to-Roeber connection for a touchdown came on a designed 36-yard heave to the end zone with no time left in the first half.

Trailing 27-7, Buffalo started the second half by recovering a Mounds View fumble. Facing fourth-and-8, Bouman hit Tweten for a 38-yard touchdown and the deficit was trimmed to 27-13.

But the Mustangs answered. Tebbutt got free for a 21-yard touchdown, his second score of the game, for a 34-13 lead.

"We struggled with that at the beginning of the season, so we emphasized coming back," Stenstrom said.