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Braelen Toles, '23 5A II Defensive Player of the Year

When people think of Damonte Ranch football, it is often the offensive side of the ball that comes to mind, but through the years Damonte has had some outstanding players on the defensive side of the ball as well. Richie Garcia is the NIAA all-time tackles leader, with 427 tackles, Christian Jamison led the state in tackles back in 2019, and there’s a new name to add to the pantheon of great Damonte Ranch defenders: Braelen Toles.

Braelen Toles, 5A D II Defensive Player of the Year

Toles just finished his senior campaign with the Mustangs, and having done so, has placed his name in the top five NIAA all-time sack leaders. Unofficially, Toles sack total sits at 31, placing him 4th all-time in the state of Nevada.

1) Gabriel Lopez, Desert Pines, 41 sacks

2) Joshua Symonette, Centennial/Palo Verde, 33.5

3) Justin Hatfield, Churchill County, 32

4) Braelen Toles, Damonte Ranch, 31

5) Lawrence Guy, Western, 30.5

But fans need to consider how Toles did it. He isn’t an edge rusher, an outside linebacker or defensive end, he did this from middle of the defensive line, the nose tackle. Most of the time Toles lined up across from the center and faced double teams (and being held, see the picture of his ripped game jersey below) to get through to make a play and make plays he did. Toles posted 75 total tackles this season with 28 tackles for a loss. As a sophomore, playing on varsity, he had nine sacks, his junior he set the school record with 12.5, and then this year another nine and a half sacks.

Braelen is the epitome of Damonte Ranch football. His dad, Chris, coaches Damonte Ranch youth football in the Sierra Youth Football League and his older brother, Bryson, was a varsity standout for the Mustangs who went on to play for Idaho State. Brealen has played for 12 years and was coached by his dad in his youth football days. He played multiple positions as a youth player, but due to his size often found himself on the offensive and defensive lines. Braelen is a superb athlete and could have played just about anywhere on the field, but settled on the defensive line because he had coaches who helped him understand that his skill set, size, and speed, could best be utilized there. He attributes his understanding of the game, and the position he chose, to his coaches. Braelen told me he is going to miss being a Mustang, especially, “Travelling with my teammates to various places and getting to hangout.” Braelen has made wonderful memories and built amazing friendships. Following his time at Damonte Ranch, he will have some options, because he isn’t just a football player, he is also one of the top wrestlers in the state.

Braelen has been to state twice, there was no state wrestling competition his freshman year, otherwise he might have been to state three times already. His junior year, he took third at state, and this year has his eyes set on a state title. He plans on wrestling at 175 pounds after playing football at around 190 this season.

The coaches that had to scheme against Braelen recognize his worth, voting him the NIAA 5A D II Defensive Player of the Year this year; he was also named to the first-time defense. Outstanding work for a guy that was outweighed by up to 100 pounds by the offensive lineman he was competing with. Braelen has told me his next step will be college where he might be playing football, he might be wrestling, or he might just be enjoying a full academic schedule, but one thing is for sure, he will be a success.

About Your Author - Lynn Ault covers high school athletics, specifically Damonte Ranch High School, for Battle Born Preps. His wife, A'Laina, is the head of the math department at Damonte and both his kids graduated from Damonte as well. When not announcing or covering athletics, he can be found working with middle and high school students for Hope Community, a non-denominational church in south Reno.

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