REGINA - The Friday night lights will shine again on Seth Doege.
The San Angelo, Texas product, who was a high school and college quarterback sensation in the Lone Star State, will start his first CFL game with the Saskatchewan Roughriders (9-4) on Friday at Mosaic Stadium against the league's top team, the Calgary Stampeders (11-2).
The 25-year-old rookie said his upbringing has prepared him well for his first pro start.
"The Rider Nation fan base reminds me a lot of big time football in Texas just because people are crazy about it here and they love it and have a lot of passion for it," Doege said. "In Texas, all of the movies you've seen, it's pretty similar. If you're winning, anyway, that's what it's like."
Doege grew up in a community in rural Texas where high school football on Friday nights mattered. His father was a high school coach, and that meant the game was introduced to him at an early age.
Doege was the starter of his west Texas high school team in his freshman and sophomore years. Knee injuries derailed his junior and senior seasons, but Doege still drew interest from nearby Texas Tech University.
Doege blossomed into a star his junior year with the Red Raiders, as he set an NCAA Division I record for completion percentage in a game (90.0 per cent, on 40-of-44 pass attempts). His 4,004 passing yards that year ranked eighth in the nation.
His senior season was even better. He was named the MVP of the Meineke Car Care Bowl and finished in the top three in the country in passing yards (4,205 yards) and touchdown passes (39).
Doege said he accepts the added pressures and responsibilities associated with being the starting quarterback in a football-crazed community.
"In college, you get used to it," he said. "When you go to a big school, you're playing in front of 60,000 or 70,000 fans each and every week, especially in a big time conference. You get used to the crowd and you love it. That's part of it, that's part of being the quarterback. You get all the love when things are good and all the blame when things are bad. That's part of the job description."
It's no different in Regina, where fans were left shaking their heads after a 24-0 defeat last week at the hands of the Edmonton Eskimos. Tino Sunseri started that game before Doege entered in the second half.
"Tino and I want that. We want to be the guy that elevates this team," Doege said. "I think we both have the skill set to play at a high level and I think the guys trust us in the locker-room, regardless whether it's Tino or myself."
Doege has climbed the Riders' depth chart in recent weeks. Starting quarterback Darian Durant went down nearly a month ago with a torn tendon in his right (throwing) elbow, with Sunseri having filled in under centre the previous three games. The Riders have scratched out just 38 points in those three contests, including a pair of lopsided losses on the road to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (28-3) and to the Eskimos (24-0).
Sandwiched between those defeats was a second-half rally from Sunseri that led the Riders to 35-32 victory over the Ottawa Redblacks on Sept. 21. But songs of Sunseri's praises quickly turned to a chorus of boos after the Riders' beatdown in Edmonton last week.
Doege is next in line.
"For this week, I thought it was a chance to give Seth a chance to show what he has," head coach Corey Chamblin said. "They (Sunseri and Doege) have different skill sets for the most part, but when I looked at it… (Doege) has good command of the huddle this week and I want to see him go for it."
Chamblin's decision on Wednesday ended a few days worth of rumours of new quarterbacks coming to Saskatchewan, including a trade for Henry Burris or a return of veteran Kerry Joseph.
Durant is still recovering from elbow surgery on his right throwing arm and isn't expected to return any time soon. However, earlier this week, Riders' general manager Brendan Taman suggested Durant could rejoin the team for the final week or two of the regular season.
Chamblin wasn't as optimistic.
"We're not even at the point where he can grip the ball and throw it," he said. "It doesn't matter what we are told or where we are from there. I will hold those thoughts until we actually see where his progression and rehab is."
Burris' name popped into the conversation on Monday after reports surfaced the Riders had contacted the Redblacks about a possible trade for the 39-year-old veteran quarterback.
Joseph, who led the Riders to the 2007 Grey Cup championship, was also a part of the water-cooler conversation this week. Nothing has materialized with either Burris or Joseph, meaning the Riders plan to stick with Doege and Sunseri for the foreseeable future.
"It's time to shake things up. Maybe it's one of those things we can shake up to get back into the win column," Chamblin said.