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News from Monmouth County, New Jersey

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    Officers found nearly $1 million in cash, bulk marijuana and THC products in Hightstown.

    HIGHTSTOWN -- The Hightstown Fire Dept. responded to a fire alarm on Mercer Street last week and did not find smoke and fire, but the strong smell of marijuana, authorities said.

    Neil Schloss 

    After ensuring there were no fire hazards, police investigators obtained a search warrant and returned the next day to the storefront in the 100 block. Police found a marijuana operation that dealt in a number of products, including edibles, the Mercer County Prosecutor's office alleged Wednesday.

    Officers seized 80 pounds of bulk marijuana and $2,449 in cash.

    They also found "a plethora" of products - over $900,000 worth - including hundreds of energy drinks, hemp gummies, pretzels, and even dog biscuits, all laced with THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, a chemical in marijuana.

    Also recovered was 3,489 pill bottles of raw marijuana, which the prosecutor's office described as "high-grade, designer marijuana."

    Investigators arrested Neil E. Schloss, 46, of Millstone, who authorities identified as the operator of CannaSence, an online store that sells high-grade marijuana products that he was shipping from the storefront, the statement said.

    The building is also home to Castle Consulting, an accounting, payroll and consulting firm, for which Schloss is the president and a certified public accountant (CPA).

    "The market for marijuana edibles has dramatically increased as medical cannabis legalization has spread across the country," Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri said in the statement. 

    Schloss was also in control of approximately 26 bank accounts totaling $777,900, the statement said, all of which have been frozen. 

    Schloss is charged with maintaining and operating a marijuana manufacturing facility, and various possession charges. He was released from custody Wednesday, pending trial appearances. 

    Prosecutors originally filed to detain Schloss pending trial, but withdrew that request in court Wednesday and consented to his release, with several conditions, including prohibiting him from using any medications without a prescription.

    Schloss has spoken at several public events about marijuana products and marijuana rights.

    A call to Schloss's lawyer was not immediately returned late Wednesday.

    Paige Gross may be reached at pgross@njadvancemedia.comFollow her on Twitter @By_paigegross. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    Back in the day, men wore full suits to the beach, women wore long dresses and bathing suits looked a whole lot different

    Once upon a time, men wore full suits to the Jersey Shore, and women wore long dresses, sweltering temperatures be damned. Others wore dark sleeveless ensembles that really were more like suits. 

    Marina Amaral recently revived one such scene from black-and-white history, bringing to life blue ocean, pink dresses, black umbrellas and beige sand, a foamy wave cresting in the background, by colorizing an image called "On the beach, Asbury Park" which dates to about 1905. 

    On Tuesday, after Amaral, a photo colorist based in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, posted the image, the photo claimed the top spot on Reddit

    Amaral, 23, has been professionally colorizing images since 2015 and sells prints of her work. She sources photos from the public domain, pulling from government archives, public libraries and museums.

    She's drawn attention for colorizing images of famous faces like Winston Churchill, Rasputin, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, the British royal family and Gen. George Patton, in addition to other historical scenes featuring ordinary people. 

    Any given photo can take her "40 minutes up to 40 days" to complete, Amaral said in an email message. She gravitated to the photo of the Asbury Park beach because it shows people at ease and having fun without the trappings of our digital age. 

    "I absolutely love how different that scene is when compared to modern days," Amaral writes of the photo, taken when Theodore Roosevelt was president. "Starting (with) their clothes up to their behavior. You can see that everyone is having fun and having a really good time without the technology that we have today.

    "Today, it's very difficult  to find a picture like that taken on a beach and see people entertained simply by being on the beach without the need to use a cell phone, a tablet, or anything like that."

    In order to try to faithfully apply color to a scene -- or make an educated guess -- Amaral, a history buff, often researches eye, hair and skin color, buildings, military uniforms and medals.

    "I'll only colorize a photo if I have enough information to make it look authentic without being disrespectful to the story behind it," she says. 

    Amaral's first book, "The Colour of Time," with historian Dan Jones, due from London publisher Head of Zeus in 2018, and will be one in a planned series. The book spans more than 100 years of history, including Queen Victoria's England and the Civil War.

    "I think the colors allow us to create a more intimate connection with the subject," Amaral writes. "We live in a colorful world. It is hard to relate to a historical figure when you see her in black and white, but once you have the opportunity to see her in real and vibrant colors, you realize that this person was flesh and blood just like us. It makes all the difference and give us a completely different perspective over those events from our past."

    You can find Amaral's work on TwitterFacebook and at marinamaral.com

    Amy Kuperinsky may be reached at akuperinsky@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmyKup or on Facebook.

     


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    Things that give us a scare are all part of the season.

    Halloween has always been about ghosts, goblins, witches and ghouls. Things that give us a scare are all part of the season, and we've included some creepy photos in this gallery to keep that tradition going.

    But Halloween also offers us a snapshot of the culture of the times, as evidenced by the costumes that folks wear when celebrating the season. According to thedailymeal.com, "In the 1920s, costumes started out simple and homemade. The Pierrot clown, with its dramatic black and white painted face, was a popular costume. Other Halloween staples, like witches, gypsies, and farmers, got their start in the 1920s."

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    In the 1930s, Disney themes became big Halloween hits, with children dressing as Minnie and Mickey Mouse, Cinderella and other animated characters. The website notes that the modern trend of sexy costumes for adults began in the 1940s due, in part, to material shortages.

    indexghjpeg-b9ccc375c56a45e6.jpeg 

    The 1950s were heavily influenced by both world cultures and TV. Cowboys were hugely popular, due to the numerous westerns on the three networks. The move toward making Hawaii the 50th state in 1959 resulted in grass skirts and Hawaiian shirts as popular costumes. And what else would the 1960s be except superheroes, with Superman, Batman and many other caped crusaders becoming THE costume to have during the decade.

    The 1970s saw Peanuts characters dominate costume sales, while the 1980s were an eclectic mix of pop culture from Hulk Hogan to Elvira. Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles dominated the '90s, while Harry Potter characters were all the rage in the new millennium.

    Here's a gallery of New Jerseyans dressed up and scary sights from around the state. And here are links to other galleries you might like.

    Vintage photos of folks from N.J. in costume

    Vintage photos of Halloween in N.J.

    Vintage photos of people in costume in N.J.

    Vintage scary photos from N.J.

    Vintage photos from N.J. that might give you the creeps

    Vintage photos from N.J. that are just plain creepy

    Greg Hatala may be reached at ghatala@starledger.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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    A couple of surprising results paved the way for a different-looking Top 20 this week.


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    NJ.com football writers made their bold predictions for Week 8 of the high school football season.


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    The Midway Beach Condominium Association says its existing dunes offer better storm protection than those in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' project

    TOMS RIVER -- Trying to beat back the state's ongoing push for a continuous dune along New Jersey's Atlantic coastline, a condominium association outside of Island Beach State Park is suing to stop the massive dune project there.

    In court documents filed Friday in Superior Court, members of the Midway Beach Condominium Association say they shouldn't be forced to give up part of their oceanfront property for the beach protection work because their existing dunes are better than what's planned for the area.

    The suit, brought by the 400-member association, marks the latest legal pushback in the string of unsuccessful challenges to the state's beach replenishment project ordered by Gov. Chris Christie for the entire ocean coastline of New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy five years ago.

    Not deterred by the state's victories in those previous challenges, attorneys for the condo association say the state's project there is "arbitrary and unnecessary" because Midway Beach already has a dune system that has provided more than adequate protection from storm damage.

    "They concede that our dune system worked during Sandy and would be effective in a 500-year storm, whereas the corps' project is only effective in up to a 100-year storm," Anthony Della Pelle, attorney for the association, said of the state's engineers.

    Judge won't delay oceanfront condemnations; allows more residents to challenge beach replenishment

    Situated several blocks from the entrance to Island Beach State Park, Midway Beach is comprised of hundreds of modest bungalows tightly packed in neat rows between the ocean and Route 35 on the northern Ocean County peninsula.

    Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said he could not comment specifically on this case, but defended the state's insistence on replenished beaches for New Jersey's coastline.

    "The state's position on the importance of properly engineered beaches and dunes is clear: they protect lives and they protect property," Hajna said. "We commend those property owners and coastal communities that have worked cooperatively over the years to provide easements that are necessary for construction of a coastwide system of engineered beaches and dunes. They recognize the importance of protecting their own communities as well as mutually protecting their neighboring communities."

    The state is seeking to take a 1,600-foot easement along the oceanfront between 16th and 20th avenues to build new dunes and to widen the beach there.

    But association members have argued their dunes -- which have an average height of 27 feet and an average width of 150, according to an engineer's report -- will provide greater storm protection than the 20-foot high dunes planned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

    The DEP in September started condemnation proceedings against the association after the group rejected the state's offer of $1,000 for the easement on a beach appraised at $6 million.

    The case is before Assignment Judge Marlene Lynch Ford in Toms River, the same judge who ruled in August that the state's dune project wasn't arbitrary and capricious in Bay Head and Mantoloking where oceanfront property owners argued an existing rock wall provided sufficient protection.

    Della Pelle said the Midway Beach case is different because in the Bay Head matter, the DEP contended the dune project was superior to the rock wall. But in the Midway Beach case, witnesses for the state have submitted reports saying the existing dunes can provide greater protection as long as they continue to be maintained.

    A hearing is set for Nov. 3.

    MaryAnn Spoto may be reached at mspoto@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaryAnnSpoto. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    A look at the top candidates for the girls soccer Player of the Year award for the 2017 season.


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    Only 26 teams in New Jersey remain undefeated heading into Week 8.


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    A look at the top N.J. football matchups based on history, passion, community involvement, milestone moments and more.


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    There will be 20 sectional champions crowned in 2017. Who takes the titles?


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    Which teams could pull off first round upsets in states?


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    Check out these 29 small cemeteries with interesting stories and locations in New Jersey


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    Your one-stop shop for Week 8

    ESSENTIALS 
    LIVE updates, results and links for Week 8
    Power points through Week 7
    Week 8 schedule/scoreboard
    Week 8 schedule/scoreboard by conference
    Conference standings through Week 7

    Stat leaders from Week 7 
    • Season stat leaders  


    Gridiron grudge matches: The 31 fiercest rivalries in N.J. football


    RANKINGS 
    Top 20
    Group and conference 

    PICKS 
    Top 20 picks
    Picks by conference
    Quick picks for every game in N.J.


    WATCH & VOTE: Videos of the 25 HS mascots vying to be crowned N.J.'s best


    MUST-READ CONTENT 
    Quests for perfection: 26 teams remain undefeated
    Week 8 bold predictions: Leering at Leary, squeaker for Liners

    Can't-miss football: 3 title rematches and 20 more huge games
    Coach Barris Grant 'like a 2nd father' for rebuilding Hillside
    • 
    New NJSIAA hearing set for St. Joseph (Mont.) recruiting case
    West Deptford's Mike Bilodeau experiences highs and lows kicking

    North Bergen-Union City renew rivalry with division at stake

    Who were the best players in Week 7? Here are 37 standouts

    Football mismatch: How this 84-0 blowout got out of hand so quickly 
    NJIC football playoffs: Who's in and what are the crossover games?
    South Jersey TD Club honorees for Weeks 4-7
    Previewing Hun-Peddie as Hun looks to extend streak
    Nicholson hopes to spark Steinert in matchup vs. Hamilton 
    A season of 'firsts' continues for North Hunterdon  
    • NJSIAA fills coveted assistant director spot

    GAMES OF THE WEEK 
    • NJ.com/Star-Ledger 
    West Jersey supremacy at stake for P'burg-North Hunterdon

    • Times of Trenton
    Hopewell Valley seeks first victory against Northern Burlington
    • 
    South Jersey Times 
    Woodsbury-Pennsville primed for another Group 1 showdown

    RECRUITING  
    DePaul QB Taquan Roberson to pick between RU, 8 others 
    Recruitment ignited for Mater Dei's Shitta Sillah
    • 
    What's the latest on NJ.com's Top 50 recruits?
    Rutgers recruits react to 2-game Big Ten winning streak 

    Pat Lanni may be reached at planni@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @PatLanniHS. Like NJ.com High School Sports on Facebook.


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    The 16-year-old entered the hospital to be treated for pneumonia nine years ago but was taken of a ventilator too soon, her attorney said

    FREEHOLD -- A Monmouth County teenager who suffered brain damage nine years ago when she was allegedly taken off a ventilator too soon has been awarded $17 million in a negligence lawsuit against the doctor and hospital, according to her lawyer.

    An eight-person jury awarded Kelsey Heaney, 16, of Wall, $5 million for pain and suffering, $2 million for potential future lost earnings and $10 million to be used to pay for medical care for the rest of her life, attorney Paul A. Lauricella said Friday. 

    The trial spanned spanned six weeks before the jury reached a verdict Thursday.

    Attorneys for Dr. Charles K. Dadzie and Neptune-based Meridian Pediatric Associates never presented a settlement offer before or during the six-week trial, Lauricella said.

    N.J. woman claims negligence by hospital, medical company

    Heaney was admitted to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in 2008 with pneumonia. She underwent surgery and then was placed on a ventilator for 10 days, her attorney said. 

    When Dadzie took the girl off the ventilator she was still sedated and couldn't breathe on her own, Lauricella said. Heaney then went into cardiac arrest and had to have heart shocked three times. As a result, she suffered damage to the part of her brain that processes information, according to the lawyer.

    The jury consisted of four men and four women. Two jurors departed during the trial, according to Lauricella, a partner at McLaughlin & Lauricella in Philadelphia. Heaney's family first filed suit in 2010. 

    A spokeswoman for Jersey Shore University Medical Center said the hospital will appeal the jury's award. "We disagree and are disappointed with the outcome of the lawsuit," Donna Sellmnan said in an email.

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

     


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    There's a twist ...


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    The NJSIAA imposed multiple sanctions on Mater Dei, a non-public school in Monmouth County, on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017

    ROBBINSVILLE — Mater Dei head coach Dino Mangiero and offensive coordinator/athletic director Lance Bennett are prohibited from coaching on gamedays for the remainder of the season — including state playoffs — as part of a corrective action plan agreed upon by the school and the NJSIAAA Friday.

    The gameday-only suspensions begins Saturday when Mater Dei hosts Delbarton at 1 p.m. The release did not indication who would serve has head coach. Former head coach Shannon Hoadley is an assistant on the current Mater Dei staff.

    The agreement will prevent Mater Dei from further NJSIAA penalties including a ban from the sectional playoffs.

    Mater Dei, located in Middletown Township, has a 5-0 record this season, has won 17-straight games, is defending Non-Public Group 2 champion and is the sectional favorite again this fall.

    Both Mangiero and Bennett came to Mater Dei from Poly Prep in Brooklyn. Under the agreement, both are permitted to coach at practices only.

    In a joint press release issued Friday, Mater Dei accepted the sanctions imposed by the NJSIAA Controversies Committee earlier this month, which included the penalties against the two coaches, a two-year probation and requirements to attend rules meetings and workshops sponsored by the NJSIAA.

    Mangiero, in his second season at Mater Dei, and Bennett, his long-time assistant, were penalized for failure to complete a National Federation of High School Associations-mandated fundamentals of coaching course.

    Sources told NJ.com, Mangiero and Bennett completed the four-hour classroom portion of the course, but did not take the four-hour online piece or take the required test.

    “Mater Dei Prep looks forward to moving past this unintentional oversight and working collaboratively with the NJSIAA and the Shore Conference,” said Mater Dei Interim Head of School John Anderson.

    “We know we must adhere to all the rules involving interscholastic activities for the safety of student-athletes and fairness to all in applying the rules of completion,” said Randy MacDonald, the Chairman of the Mater Dei Board of Trustees. “We understand how these processes broke down and the school must establish a clear path forward for ensuring compliance. We teach out students to respect the rules and to accept responsibility when errors occur. We can do no less.”

    Mater Dei was summoned to appear to before the NJSIAA Controversies Committee after Mater Dei used six transfer students in an in-season football scrimmage on Sept. 30 against Canada Prep of Toronto. During inquiries about the use of the ineligible players, it was discovered Mangiero and Bennett lacked proper certification the release said.

    Mangiero played in the Nation Football League under Vince Lombardi with the Green Bay Packers. He built Poly Prep into national prep school power.

    “It’s unfortunate the penalties were issued, but every member of the Shore Conference will be available for clarification of rules or any question the Mater Dei athletic staff may have going forward,” said Joe Arminio, the president of the Shore Conference and the athletic director for the Toms River School District. “We’re always available for any member, not just Mater Dei.”

    Joe Zedalis may be reached at jzedalis@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @josephzedalis. Like NJ.com HS sports on Facebook.


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    Long Branch police charged Officer Jake Pascucci with driving while intoxicated in the Sept. 22 incident Watch video

     

    LONG BRANCH -- An off-duty Long Branch police officer allegedly was drunk when he hit and killed a woman who was crossing the street in town last month, according to authorities.

    Long Branch police on Thursday charged Jake Pascucci, 28, with driving while intoxicated, adding to the charges of careless and reckless driving already filed against him in the Sept. 22 death of Karen Borkowski, according to the summons obtained by NJ Advance Media through an Open Public Records Act request.

    Borkowski, 66, of Stanhope, was crossing Ocean Boulevard at Broadway around 8:15 p.m. to go to the CVS store for some bandages when she was struck by Pascucci's 2016 Jeep, according to her husband and police.

    Pascucci.jpgOfficer Jake Pascucci was named "Cop of the Month" in February 2015. (Long Branch Police Department Facebook page)

    Pascucci told officers at the scene he had a green light and that Borkowski was jaywalking, according to dashboard camera video from police at the scene.

    "She walked right in front of me, jaywalking," he can be heard saying in the video. "I have a green light, going this way, southbound. She walked right out in front of me."

    The Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office initially was investigating the crash but the case was later transferred to Middlesex County to avoid a conflict of interest because Pascucci was part of an investigation led by the prosecutor's office in Monmouth County.

    The initial report filed by Long Branch police did not indicate Pascucci's speed at the time.

    The complaint lodged Thursday listed a single charge of driving while intoxicated.

    Acting Long Branch police Chief Jason Roebuck said discussions are still ongoing about Pascucci's job status and a decision on his employment will probably be made early next week.

    The Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office rejected NJ Advance Media's OPRA request for the results of Pascucci's toxicology test.

    Staff writer Alex Napoliello contributed to this report.

    MaryAnn Spoto may be reached at mspoto@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaryAnnSpoto. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Get all the Week 8 football news you need -- including links to live updates, scores and links -- on the weekend of Oct. 27-28, 2017

    WEEK 8 KEY LINKS
     Week 8 bold predictions
     30 must-see games
    • Top 20 picks and schedule
    • Statewide stat leaders
    • Quick picks
    • Power points
    • Top 20, group and conference rankings
    Mega-coverage guide

    FRIDAY'S FEATURED GAMES
    No. 17 Don Bosco Prep at No. 1 Bergen Catholic, 6pm
    • Live updates
    • Game story
      Photo gallery
    • Box score

    No. 7 Pope John at No. 4 DePaul, 7pm
     Live updates
    • Game story
    • Box score

    No. 5 Timber Creek at Williamstown, 7pm
    • Live updates
    • Game story
      Photo gallery
    • Box score


    Piscataway at No. 10 Manalapan, 7pm
    Live updates
    • Game story
    • Box score

    North Hunterdon at No. 16 Phillipsburg
    Live updates
    • Game story
      Photo gallery
    • Box score

    No. 18 Camden Catholic at Holy Spirit, 7pm
    • Live updates
    • Game story
      Photo gallery
    • Box score


    Passaic Tech at Ridgewood, 7pm
    No. 5 Timber Creek at Williamstown, 7pm
    • Live updates
    • Game story
      Photo gallery
    • Box score

    Jackson Memorial at Old Bridge, 7pm
    No. 5 Timber Creek at Williamstown, 7pm
    • Live updates
    • Game story
      Photo gallery
    • Box score

    Union City at North Bergen, 7pm
    No. 5 Timber Creek at Williamstown, 7pm
    • Game recap
      Photo gallery
    • Box score

    NJIC semifinal: Hasbrouck Heights at Wallington, 7pm
    • Game recap

    NJIC semifinal: Rutherford at New Milford, 7pm
    • Game recap

    Northern Burlington at Hopewell Valley, 7pm
    • Game story
    •  Photo gallery
    • Box score

    Princeton at Ewing, 7pm
    • Game story
    • Box score

    Lawrence at Robbinsville, 7pm
    • Game story
    • Box score

    Nottingham at Steinert, 7pm
    • Game story
    • Box score


    Hightstown at Notre Dame7pm
    • Game story
    • Box score

    Woodrow Wilson at Delsea, 7pm
    • Live updates
    • Game story

    •  Photo gallery
    • Box score

    Gateway at Burlington City, 7pm

    • Live updates
    • Game story

    •  Photo gallery
    • Box score

    Washington Township at Bridgeton, 7pm
    • Game story
    • Box score

    Woodstown at Schalick, 7pm
    • Game story
    • Box score

    TOP 20 SCHEDULE/SCOREBOARD
    FRIDAY

    • No. 1 Bergen Catholic at No. 17 Don Bosco Prep, 6pm
    • No. 7 Pope John at No. 3 DePaul, 7pm
    • No. 4 St. Joseph (Mont.) at No. 13 Paramus Catholic, 7pm
    • No. 5 Timber Creek at Williamstown, 7pm
    • No. 6 Millville at Cumberland, 6pm
    • No. 8 Rancocas Valley at Camden, 6pm
    • No. 9 Vineland at Mainland, 6pm
    • Piscataway at No. 10 Manalapan, 7pm
    • No. 12 Lenape at Cherokee, 7pm
    • Indian Hills at No. 15 Old Tappan, 7pm
    • North Hunterdon at No. 16 Phillipsburg, 7pm
    • No. 18 Camden Catholic at Holy Spirit, 7pm
    • Middletown South at No. 19 St. John Vianney, 7pm
    SATURDAY
    • No. 2 St. Peter's Prep vs. Lincoln, 12pm
    • Seton Hall Prep at No. 11 Montclair, 1:30pm
    • No. 14 Westfield bye
    • St. Augustine at No. 20 St. Joseph (Hamm.), 1pm

    SATURDAY'S FEATURED GAMES
    • Seton Hall Prep at No. 11 Montclair, 1:30pm
    • Live updates
    • Game story

    •  Photo gallery
    • Box score

    • St. Augustine at No. 20 St. Joseph (Hamm.), 1pm
    • Live updates
    • Game story

    •  Photo gallery
    • Box score

    Delbarton at Mater Dei, 1pm
    • Live updates
    • Game story

    •  Photo gallery
    • Box score

    Wayne Valley at Wayne Hills, 2pm
    • Live updates
    • Game story

    •  Photo gallery
    • Box score

    Boonton at Verona, 2:30pm

    • Live updates
    • Game story

    • Box score

    Allentown at Trenton, 1pm
    • Game story
    • Box score

    New Egypt at Haddon Heights
    • Game story
    • Box score

    Peddie at Hun, 2pm
    • Game story
    •  Photo gallery
    • Box score

    Perkiomen, Pa. at Pennington, 1:30pm
    • Game story
    • Box score

    STATEWIDE SCHEDULE/SCOREBOARD

    Joe Zedalis may be reached at jzedalis@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @josephzedalis. Like NJ.com HS sports on Facebook

     


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    It was the first time their contractor had ever installed a pizza oven indoors

    N.J. home makeover is a regular feature on NJ.com. To submit your renovation for consideration, email home@starledger.com with your full name, email address, phone number and town/city. Attach "before" and "after" photos of what you renovated.


    JP and Jaime Albano's dream house in Colts Neck had strong curb appeal and, inside, all its 1967 charm remained intact.

    "Practically everything was original, including the powder-blue master bathroom," Jamie said.

    The ranch-style house had been well-maintained, it had a pleasing layout, and its basement was unfinished. It was all just what they wanted.

    "It was a blank slate," said JP, who in the months before they purchased the house had checked online real estate listings daily for a place exactly like it.

    "Primarily, I was looking for homes that were in need of a refresh inside. I didn't want something where someone had just redone the kitchen and the bathroom, and it wasn't our taste," he said. 

    Eight months after their March 2016 closing, they moved into a house updated with a dramatic vaulted ceiling and skylights. Their enlarged and modified kitchen has a wood-burning pizza oven.

    "We wanted a kitchen that would facilitate entertaining, cooking and eating -- all things we love to do," Jaime said.

    Among updates to the home's surfaces and systems, one of the two original bathrooms was expanded. A new powder room was added, its pink-marble-topped vanity complemented by fan-shaped pink hexagonal tiles on the floor.

    The inspiration for the makeover of the 1,870-square-foot house was an internet image of a ranch house interior with a vaulted ceiling. It topped an updated open-floor-plan ranch with a similar configuration to their own.

    To execute the layout the couple envisioned, three walls had to come down, making one large, open space out of what had previously been four rooms. One of the walls was a load-bearing, structural wall that had originally supported the entire ceiling.

    "Ceiling collar ties, or exposed beams, are now holding up the vaulted ceiling," said Neil Parsons, whose company, Design Build Pros, redesigned the home's interior. "The beams are the structural thing that holds the whole roof system together," Parsons said. The 2-by-8-foot plywood beams were constructed, finished in a dark stain, and installed 4 feet apart.

    The new vaulted ceiling covers a rectangular space including the enlarged kitchen, what had formerly been a family room with a fireplace, a living room and a formal dining room. All construction was done from inside the house without altering the exterior. 

    Installing the pizza oven was the most challenging part of the project for the contractor and the homeowners.

    For one thing, the oven weighs more than a ton, requiring a design that would support its 2,200 pounds. "This is the first pizza oven we've done in an indoor space," Parsons said. 

    For JP and Jaime, there were also costly surprises. "After awhile I just became numb to everything," said JP, who would only say that the project cost them between $75,000 and $100,000. "There was originally a fireplace in that spot, and we thought we could just put the pizza oven in the footprint of the fireplace," he said. "It wasn't that simple."

    Before the installation, the chimney had to be partially demolished and rebuilt to support the oven's weight and functions. The original plan was to surround the oven with a vinyl material. "The vinyl would not have looked good," JP said. "So, I got a stone veneer." For the face of the oven, they chose blue-green Fireclay brand tiles, handmade from recycled materials.

    The tile complements the kitchen's pale marble counter tops, which are among luxury appointments, including hickory wood floors, an American-made stainless steel BlueStar range and a Sub-Zero refrigerator.

    With their two children, ages 4 and 17 months, Jaime was uncomfortable with a bathroom where the tub was obscured by a wall. So the tub was moved to be in view of the doorway as part of the bathroom renovation.

    It was especially important to get things right because JP, who is in information technology sales, works from home in the still-unfinished basement, and Jaime is an at-home mother. The basement and their laundry room will be addressed in future updates, they said.

    Meanwhile, as they plan for the second holiday season in their renovated home, they are pleased to have a space where they can comfortably and fashionably host family and friends.

    What they renovated

    They removed walls in main living area, added a vaulted ceiling with skylights. They enlarged the kitchen and replaced their fireplace with a pizza oven, added powder room, replaced windows, expanded the main bathroom, installed new wood flooring and tile. They also converted double garage doors into a single, and replaced hollow-core doors with wooden doors and new door knobs.

    Who did the work

    Design Build Pros of Red Bank planned the redesign, Dream Home Remodeling, did construction, Aphrodite Marble of Forked River constructed counters

    How long it took

    From July 15 to Nov. 25 2016

    How much it cost

    Between $75,000 and $100,000

    Where they splurged

    "We decided early on that we didn't want to have regret with our selections, so we sort of splurged on a lot of the project where it made sense," Jaime Albano said.  "The tile from Fireclay and Cement Tile Shop (powder room floor) were a splurge, but every time we walk across them or see a bright pop of color, it brings us a lot of joy."

    How they saved

    The pink Norwegian marble used in the half bathroom was a remnant. 

    What they did themselves

    They shopped for and selected their own tile, paint, flooring, appliances and accessories.

    What they'd have done differently

    "Make the pizza oven slightly bigger," says JP. "Make over the back entryway and laundry room while the rest of the work was being done," says Jaime.

    Kimberly L. Jackson may be reached at home@starledger.com. Find NJ.com Entertainment on Facebook.


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    Catching up on some of the highlights from Week 8.


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