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East Ridge picks Simley's Betton as first football coach

Ray Betton has been hired as the first East Ridge High School football coach. For the past four years, Betton has coached at Simley High School in Inver Grove Heights, where he has amassed a 24-16 overall record.

Ray Betton has been hired as the first East Ridge High School football coach.

For the past four years, Betton has coached at Simley High School in Inver Grove Heights, where he has amassed a 24-16 overall record. Last season Simley finished 9-2 and was the co-champion of the Classic Suburban Conference along with St. Thomas Academy. The year before Betton took over, the Spartans were 4-6 overall.

"Ray took a program that had not experienced success and in four years turned them into a two-time conference champion," East Ridge Assistant Principal Matt Kraft said. "Obviously, when you're starting a brand new football program the possibility exists of having some bumps in the road at the beginning, but we all have a long range goal of taking our program to being a program of excellence and contending for conference titles."

Betton, who accepted the East Ridge job on Thursday Jan. 15, also has a desire to build a winner at East Ridge.

"The goal is always to make it to the state tournament and to win state," Betton said. "To be the best team in Class 5A in the state of Minnesota will be the goal every single year when I'm at East Ridge."

Betton chose to be the head coach at East Ridge over being head coach at Simley for the chance to start a program from scratch. Also, he said he appreciates the challenge of coaching in the 5A class instead of 4A, which Simley is a part of.

"I'm very excited about this opportunity," Betton said. "This is a chance to put East Ridge on the map. It's not too often you get to start with a blank palette and get to put their stamp on things. I look at it as a challenge and a huge opportunity. To compete in a very tough conference and to be considered one of the best teams in the state. That's the challenge."

Kraft is also excited about giving Betton a chance to work with a blank canvas.

"This is his opportunity to create a program with no past," Kraft said. "He gets to drive that culture and create those traditions with the input from his football community."

Prior to coaching at Simley, Betton, 40, was an assistant head coach at Holy Angels and then Minneapolis Washburn, before returning to Holy Angels as an associate head coach the prior to taking the Simley position.

Betton went to high school in Tucson, Ariz., then attended Arizona Western College and Bemidji State University where he played football. He then went on to play professional football in Germany and in the Arena Football League.

"Ray is very, very passionate and very, very knowledgeable about the game of football," Kraft said. "But, even more so, Ray is very passionate and dedicated to his students.

Betton said he learned a lot about coaching and about life from longtime Holy Angels' head coach Mike Condino and from Washburn's Peter Haugen, who is now the head coach at Gustavus Adolphus College.

"I learned from two very respected coaches," Betton said. "That's what I brought to Simley along with some of my experiences from high school and college. That's what molded me into the coach I am today."

In addition to leading the Spartans football team, Betton is also a special education teacher. Betton's background in education was very important to the East Ridge High School staff.

"He is an educator first," Kraft said. "That comes out in the way he has built relationships in the past with his players, families and in the community."

Betton said he hopes to be at East Ridge for a long, long time.

"This is the kind of place you come to that you would like to retire at," Betton said. "Hopefully, they don't have to look for a coach for another 20 years."

Lambert brought in as head cheer coach

East Ridge also is welcoming Cindy Lambert as the head cheerleading coach. Lambert is currently the cheerleading coach at St. Ambrose Middle School. She was influential in creating the team there and won the Minnesota Junior High School Competitive Cheerleading State Championship in 2008. Under her leadership, the St. Ambrose team also finished as the runner-up in 2006 and 2007. Lambert also was on the staff at Northern Elite All Stars (helping to find coaches, creating team guidelines and assisting with team publicity) and coached at Cheer America.

She is a longtime district resident and is excited to bring her vision for a strong, competitive and sideline cheerleading program to East Ridge, Kraft said.

Meet the coaches on Jan. 28 at Lake

All nine of East Ridge's fall coaching jobs have already been posted, with the first round of posted head coaching opportunities -- for boys and girls soccer and girls tennis -- closing back on Tuesday, Nov. 18.

The school has already hired its boys and girls soccer coaches, its girls tennis coach, its cheerleading coach and football coach.

Anyone interested in meeting the new coaches, along with Principal Aaron Harper, Kraft and art teacher Gretchen Romain, are invited to attend a meet and greet on Wednesday, Jan. 28 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Lake Junior High School in the cafeteria.

At the meet and greet, Harper, Kraft and Romain will talk about the progress of the school and introduce the coaches that have joined the Raptor team so far. This brief presentation will be followed with small breakout groups by sport. At this time, attendees will have an opportunity to meet the coach and hear more about them. The coaches will share information about their past experiences, their vision for the program, future team building events involving students and families, summer training opportunities for student-athletes and more.