Roughriders turn to Dolegala for Week 11 match against Lions

Kayle Neis/Regina Leader-Post Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Jake Dolegala (9) runs a drill during practice at Mosaic Stadium on Wednesday, August 16, 2023 in Regina.

by Taylor Shire

Regina Leader-Post

The Saskatchewan Roughriders are set to play game No. 10 with quarterback No. 3. 

With Mason Fine dealing with a hamstring injury suffered in Friday’s 41-12 loss to the Montreal Alouettes and Trevor Harris still on the six-game injured list, it’s expected Jake Dolegala will draw the start this week for the 4-5 Riders as they are set to host the 7-2 B.C. Lions on Sunday at Mosaic Stadium (5 p.m., TSN). 

And while head coach Craig Dickenson wouldn’t officially name Dolegala the starter this week after the first day of practice despite Dolegala getting most of the first-team reps ahead of Shea Patterson, the head coach did say it’s not easy on a team dealing with a third different starting quarterback in the past six games. 

“It’s a challenge because the quarterbacks take time to develop rhythm,” said Dickenson. “Thats’s something you just can’t simulate so the idea is we’re hoping to get as much rhythm as possible with Jake and with Shea, but that’s something that just has to come with time. 

“The offence, in essence, is the same. So, the guys know the offence but it’s just the chemistry with the receivers.” 

It would be the second start of Dolegala’s career in his second season in the CFL. Last year, he made his first start in his rookie season on July 24 against the Toronto Argonauts when the Riders were dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak. He completed 13-of-28 passes for 131 yards with one touchdown and one interception. 

This season, Dolegala has thrown the ball in two games. In Week 8 against Toronto, with the game out of reach, the 26-year-old engineered a touchdown drive in his only series of the game. Last week, after Fine was injured in the first half, Dolegala finished the game completing 11-of-20 passes for 107 yards and one interception. 

Now, he’s excited to get a full week of practice ahead of what will be his first start of 2023. 

“It’s huge,” said Dolegala. “The more reps the better. It’s how you get better. You just go out here and improve each day. 

“Having a full week is going to be awesome for all of us.” 

And while getting the reps with the first-team offence will be a change for Dolegala this week, the 6-foot-7, 242-pound pivot said nothing else in his approach will change. 

“I like to think I prepared like a starter prior to this so it’s going to be no different,” said Dolegala. 

After this week’s game, the Riders have their second bye week of the season before the Labour Day match against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Sept. 3. And while Dickenson said Fine has a chance to be back for the Labour Day game, he is not expected to dress this week, which led to the Riders making a trade on Sunday, acquiring veteran quarterback Antonio Pipkin from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in exchange for punter Kaare Vedvik. 

“He’s a really top-notch professional guy,” Dickenson said of Pipkin. “He’s been around and you can see the maturity. 

“It’s good to have him in the room.” 

After being signed as a free agent by Hamilton last month, Pipkin, 28, is on his fourth CFL team since 2021. Last season, he suited up for all 18 games for the Lions, making one start. 

Now, he gets a chance to wear green and white for the first time in his career. 

“It’s going to be nice to get a chance to be on the home side of it and get these fans involved and get these fans going and give them something to cheer about,” said Pipkin. 

In his career, Pipkin has also proven he can handle short-yardage duties, which is something the Riders have struggled with in recent weeks. And while Dickenson wouldn’t say Pipkin would handle the short-yardage duties this week, he’s certainly an option. 

“We’re not sure what we’re going to do in short yardage, but we needed a guy with experience, a guy that’s been in the league and knows the motions and knows the nuances of the game,” said Dickenson. 

And Pipkin says operating short yardages comes down to attitude and a mindset, regardless of what jersey he is wearing.

“If you put it on tape that you’ll get stopped, other teams see that,” said Pipkin. “Get the ball, get the job done.” 

Injury report

Receiver Kian Schaffer-Baker logged his first full practice of the year after starting the season on the six-game injured list as he recovered from hip surgery. The 25-year-old practised with the starting receivers on Day 1 in place of Jake Wieneke, who worked with the backups. Also working with the backups was receiver Mitch Picton, who has been dealing with a concussion.

On the other side, defensive lineman Anthony Lanier II missed Wednesday’s workout with a shoulder injury.