Morgan Hill Mayor Mark Turner (right, wearing no. 20 jersey) accepts the coin from a referee before performing the official coin toss to start the July 10 Bay Area Panthers game at SAP Center in San Jose. Photo: Michael Moore

The Bay Area Panthers routed the San Diego Strike Force at their last home game of the regular season July 10, which was also the team’s Morgan Hill Fan Appreciation night at SAP Center. 

The Panthers, whose practice and corporate headquarters are based in Morgan Hill, hosted a number of recognitions for its home fans before and during the July 10 game. They also secured a home game in the first round of the playoffs with their 75-40 victory over the Strike Force. 

Morgan Hill Mayor Mark Turner and City Council members Marilyn Librers, Gino Borgioli and Yvonne Martinez Beltran took the field before the coin toss—along with a number of city staff members—as “honorary captains” of the Panthers for the night game. Turner was given the honor of performing the official coin toss (won by the Strike Force) to start the game. 

And Nashville, Tenn. resident Alison Turner—the daughter of City Manager Christina Turner—sang the national anthem before the game. 

At halftime, youth players for the Morgan Hill-based SV5 NFL FLAG Football organization took the field for an unofficial competition. The youth exhibition games were officiated in part by Jeff Dixon, a Morgan Hill resident and organizer of the flag football organization who works in Team Operations for the Panthers. 

Furthermore, the first 1,000 fans who entered the SAP Center in San Jose for the July 10 game received a limited edition drink koozie decorated with logos for the Panthers and the nonprofit Visit Morgan Hill, the latter of which is a team sponsor. 

Alison Turner, who lives in Nashville and regularly visits family in Morgan Hill, sings the national anthem at the July 10 Bay Area Panthers game at the SAP Center in San Jose. Turner is Morgan Hill City Manager Christina Turner’s daughter. Photo: Robert Guynn

Before the start of the 2023 season, the Panthers in January moved their practice and corporate operations to Morgan Hill, where they practice at the Outdoor Sports Center. The Panthers, part of the Indoor Football League, were founded in 2019 but didn’t play their first full season until 2022. 

The team earlier this summer secured a spot in the IFL playoffs for the first time in franchise history. With their 75-40 win over San Diego on July 10, the Panthers secured a home game in their first round playoff match, which is scheduled for July 23 at SAP Center. The team also broke their previous record (69) for total points scored in a single game. 

Improving their regular season record to 9-5, the Panthers Monday night also clinched the second seed in the IFL’s Western Conference. They will face either Tucson or Northern Arizona in the first round of the playoffs, according to Panthers staff. 

“I think the biggest thing we wanted to do coming out of the bye week was play complimentary football,” said Panthers Defensive Coordinator Rob Keefe. “Every time we got a stop, we wanted to get a score on offense. We played great on special teams and the 75 points says it all. I’m really proud of this team.”

Wide receiver JT Stokes scored a career-best five touchdowns in the July 10 win—three receiving and two rushing scores.

The Panthers forced five Strike Force turnovers—four interceptions and a fumble recovery. Marquise Bridges and Trae Meadows each had two interceptions—Meadows closed the scoring with a 50-yard return for a touchdown late in the fourth to establish a team record for points.

“We put in the work in practice,” said Meadows.  “We were making plays there and what we do in practice always translates to the game.”

The Panthers’ final game of the regular season will take place at 4:05pm July 16, against the Duke City Gladiators in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. 

City of Morgan Hill officials gathered on the field July 10 as “honorary captains” for the Bay Area Panthers in the team’s last home game of the regular season. Photo: Michael Moore
Previous articleAfter 18 years, women’s soccer returns to Gavilan
Next articlePolice, firefighters respond to flurry of July 4 calls
Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here