The second personal foul came late in the first half when Boyle had the ball deep in its own territory.
"I was going to block him (Ben Guidugli) when he just tackled me and got in my face about it," Peck said. "I reacted by reaching out and pushing him when I got up. Again, it was no big deal. I wasn't trying to hurt him, and it was not a viscous blow. It was just to let him know to get out of my face. It was nothing out of the ordinary, but the referee threw a flag."
Peck immediately knew he was ejected. The penalty swung field position in Highlands' favor and enabled the Bluebirds to kick a field goal as the first half ended to tie the game 6-6. It also sent the Rebels scrambling to fill the void created by Peck's loss.
Sophomore Josh Miller had worked at safety in practice for the first time last week in case Peck got hurt. Peck had been moved to safety because of an injury to Casey Brummett. Highlands took advantage of the change midway through the third quarter with a 61-yard halfback pass to set up the go-ahead touchdown.
"That was my fault," Miller said. "I had been told to expect that play, but I wasn't ready. I got fooled. We are taught to deal with what happens and not make excuses. I just got beat."
Offensively, the Rebels had to change their game plan for the second half. Peck is not only a capable receiver, but he's also a physical blocker and capable runner. The Rebels had several special plays saved for the second half to let him run the ball.
"We also had to stay in just a one tight end set without him," Boyle assistant coach Chris Mason said. "That took away some of the things we were planning to do. It impacted what we did on special teams, too, because Greg is a big part of that.
"I guess it is just one of those things. Kids are emotional, especially in a state championship game. He didn't intend to get thrown out. Those things just happened. He didn't do anything that bad, but the officials just made the calls they felt they had to make. All I know is that it hurt us."
Boyle coach Chuck Smith said Peck's absence was felt more on offense, especially since Highlands' defense was dominating the line of scrimmage and dictating what Boyle could, or couldn't, do.
"We had to make adjustments, which we did, but what we couldn't change is that they were just beating us one-on-one up front," the Boyle coach said. "Having Greg would not have changed that, but then he also has a knack for making a big play when you need one."
Peck spent most of the halftime break talking to his teammates, especially Miller and Hagen Smith, who took his spot on offense. "I tried to help them calm down and told Josh and Hagen that they just had to fill in for me and go on," said Peck, who was allowed to watch the game from the sideline in the second half. "I told them just to relax and play."
Then he could only watch as Highlands pulled away to end Boyle's five-year reign as state champion. Once the game ended, Peck took the runner-up trophy from Smith and held it high above his head for the Boyle fans to see.
"We did make it back to state even though we had a lot of adversity this year," Peck said. "Even with the loss, we still had a great season and accomplished a lot.
"I know I have no regrets. I got to play two years under Chuck Smith and had two of the best years of my life on this team. It's hard to believe it is over, especially with what happened, but I am not going to feel ashamed of what we did. I wish the outcome could have been different, but we still have a lot to be proud of."